Hamish Riley-Smith

Rare Books And Manuscripts


A Treatise of Commerce. Middleburgh 1601 First edition. Presentation Copy

One of the great rarities of economic literature

A Treatise of Commerce, Wherin are shewed the commodies arising by a wel ordered, and ruled trade, Such as that of the Societie of Merchants Adventurers is proved to bee, written principallie for the better information of those who doubt of the Necessarienes of the said Societie in the State of the Realme of Englande.

Middleburgh, Richard Schilders, Printer to the States of Zeland 1601

Quarto, 17th century panelled calf, rebacked, (4) + 178pp, without the errata, title within typographical woodcut border with printers device, woodcut initials, author’s presentation inscription in ink on the initial blank signed and dated Middelbroughe 28 Decembris 160(1)

Provenance: 1.Sir Leonard Halliday [d.1612] merchant adventurer, Mayor of London, 10 line presentation inscription from the author. 2. Book plate of Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax [1661-1715], first Chancellor of the Exchequer, and father of the Bank of England.

Very rare STC 25330. Kress 243 Appleby, Economic Thought & Ideology in 17th Century England, pp.94,105-106, 116. Hecksher, Mercantilism I, pp,270, 423, 428-429; II, pp.62, 95, 100, 131. Schumpeter, pp.306, 339-340. Palgrave III,p.665.

First edition, with remarkable 10 line author’s presentation inscription [see below].

To the right worshipfull, grave and
prudent Senator, and one of the Fathers
of the farre renomnpned [i.e. renowned] Fellowshippe
of Merchant Adventurers of England Mr
Leonard Hallidaie Esquire and Alderman
of the Cittye of Londone[,] John Wheeler
once and still his servant sendeth this
his simple woork with heartye wishes of
all happiness and longe lyfe to hym and hys.
Middelbroughe 28 Decembris anno 160[1]
J Wheeler:

Wheeler was Secretary of t6he Society of Merchant Adventurers of England – the strongest of the ‘regulated’ trading companies. First published as a defence of the Society at Middleburgh in 1601 and reissued in the same year in London. Hotchkiss describes this book “as the earliest important example of corporation publicity…a piece of commercial propaganda…an important milestone in the development of marketing…It represents the characteristically medieval theory of the trade monopoly, bolstered by monarchical authority and jealously guarded against competition”. Written to show the superiority of the Merchant Adventurers over unorganised traders, Wheeler argued that competition among merchants was minimized, that the large fleets employed by such a company secured commerce, increased exports, cheapened imports, raised the customs revenue, and benefited the nation in time of war. The book contains a detailed account of alliances with the Low Countries, trade with Antwerp and survey of trade between England and the Hanse towns, with a refutation of the charge against the Merchant Adventurers of being monopolists.


JOHN WHEELER - A Treatise of Commerce. Middleburgh 1601 First edition. Presentation Copy
JOHN WHEELER - A Treatise of Commerce. Middleburgh 1601 First edition. Presentation Copy

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