Difference between revisions of "Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce"

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Revision as of 15:30, 24 July 2013

by Malachy Postlethwayt

In addition to his government work Postlethwayt devoted much of the 1740s and 1750s to the preparation of his major work, The Universal Dictionary, which appeared in instalments between 1751 and 1755 and subsequently as a two-volume work (1757; 4th edn, 1774). This has been described as an amplified and Anglicized version of the Dictionnaire universal de commerce (written largely by Jacques Savary des Brulons), the extent of the departures reflecting Postlethwayt's ‘greater interest in political problems; his more intense economic nationalism; and his exuberant belief in the economic usefulness of experimental philosophy’ (Johnson, 187–8, 402). More specifically, the penultimate sentence of the dictionary's introduction conveyed Postlethwayt's intentions concisely:

This work is designed throughout to raise the spirit of universal art and industry in this nation, that the labour and ingenuity of our people, being inferior to those of no other state and empire, the kingdom may not dwindle into poverty and ignominy; and from being the greatest nation in the world, we may not become the least and the most contemptible. (Postlethwayt, l.x)

It therefore contained many practical articles on inventions and improvements, as well as on commercial practice such as banking, commercial bills, and customs house business, hence catering for the considerable interest in compendia of knowledge of the mid-eighteenth century. This last enthusiasm was also evident in Postlethwayt's proposal for a remodelled Royal Society to enable it to collect information useful to British trade as well as to recommend new manufactures and new avenues of trade for official encouragement and support. [1]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Malachy Postlethwayt, (1707-1767)

Title: The Universal Dictionary Of Trade And Commerce: With Large Additions And Improvements, Adapting The Same To The Present State Of British Affairs In America, Since The Last Treaty Of Peace Made In The Year 1763. With Great Variety Of New Remarks And Illustrations Incorporated Throughout The Whole Together With Everything Essential That Is Contained In Savary's Dictionary: Also, All The Material Laws Of Trade And Navigation Relating To These Kingdoms, And The Customs And Usages To Which All Traders Are Subject

Published: London : Printed for H. Woodfall, A. Millar, J. and R. Tonson, J. Rivington, J. Hinton, R. Baldwin, L. Hawes and W. Clarke and R. Collins, R. Horsfield, W. Johnston, T. Longman, J. Brotherton, J. Dodsley, T. Payne, J. Robson, T. Lowndes, W. Nicoll, and J. Knox, 1766.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary speckled calf with spines in seven compartments with raised bands. Tooled in gilt on either side of each band. Dark red and dark green morocco lettering-pieces in the second and third compartments, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt with marbled endpapers. Purchased from Donald a. Heald Rare Books.


  1. Peter Groenewegen, ‘Postlethwayt, Malachy (1707–1767)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2013 accessed 6 June 2013