Skip to Content

Adam Smith Collection

Collection Level Description

Relatively small, general collection of monographs etc from the surviving personal library of the 18th century philosopher and economic theorist, Adam Smith (1723-90). The majority of titles relate principally to Greek and Latin classics and date mostly from the 18th century. The collection does, however, include a number of early works from the 16th and 17th centuries, of which can be found some particularly fine bindings. Notable items include a 1546 edition of the Marsilius Ficinus translation of Plato and four folio volumes of Aristotle's complete works, c 1728. The collection also includes a few additional items of more recent date (19th century) acquired by Smith's descendants.


The Adam Smith Library is signicant as a collection of books reflecting the personal tastes and interests of a highly respected economist and philosopher. A figure of historical proportions, Adam Smith helped to shape modern thought and opinion through his various writings. Brief manuscript annotations by Smith can be found throughout. His collection is also significant for reflecting the interests and pre-occupations of 18th century intellectual society, with particular strengths lying in the Classical arena.

Physical characteristics

Approx. 223 volumes

Description or Catalogue

Full listing available on Special Collections Book Collections web page

Previous listings: Two handlists are available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room. One is a MS alphabetical author list (1887) and the other, a typescript ledger shelflist, (c 1916). An additional comment on the contents of the collection held at Queen's is provided by Professor R.D.C. Black in "Adam Smith's Library. A Note on the Volumes at Queen's University Belfast," published in the History of Economic Thought Newletter, No. 3, November 1969. Please contact Special Collection for a copy of this article.

Collection Dates



Additional Details


Philosophy & Theology

Geographic Coverage




Material Types

Books - including pamphlets

Custodial Information

Related collection outside Northern Ireland: The Library of Adam Smith, University of Tokyo: 
Accrual Policy: Closed
Accrual Method: Donation
Accrual Periodicity: Closed


SMITH, ADAM (1723-1790)


Scottish economist and philosopher. b. Kirkcaldy, 1723. Noted for his published treatise, The Wealth of Nations, which is widely regarded as the first masterpiece in political economy. Ed. Glasgow and Oxford. 1751 appointed Professor of Logic at Glasgow University, later transferring to the Chair of Moral Philosophy, in 1752. 1759 published Theory of Moral Sentiments. 1764-66 tutored Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch in France coming into contact with leading philosophers and writers, including Voltaire. From 1773, maintained a frequent residence in London and in 1775 was elected a member of Dr Johnson’s Literary Club. After a number of revisions and delays, the Wealth of Nations was finally published in 1776 to much acclaim. In 1778, was appointed Commissioner of Customs in Edinburgh. d. Edinburgh, 1790. [Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Chambers Biographical Dictionary.] Publications: Articles upon Johnson’s Dictionary, and the general state of literature of Europe, in Nos 1 and 2 of the Edinburgh Review, 1755; The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1st ed. 1759, 2nd ed. 1761, 6th ed. 1790); Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1st ed. 1776, 2nd ed. 1778, 3rd ed. 1784, 4th ed. 1786, 5th ed. 1789, 9th 1799); Essays on Philosophical Subjects (1795); Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, Arms…by Adam Smith…reported by a Student in 1793, ed. Edwin Cannan (1896); Collected Works, ed. Dugald Stewart (1811-12)

Economist and philosopher



Private Depositor

Prof of Natural History and Geology, Queen’s College, Belfast. d. 1918. Ownership rests with legal descendants.