Author:William Petty

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Not to be confused with William Petty-Fitzmaurice.
William Petty

English scientist, philosopher and economist

William Petty



Sir William Petty wrote a lot. But not many of his writings were published during his life. Much of his writings were “for circulation in the corridors of power or with a view to acquiring influence and jobs - which he never managed to obtain.”[1]

His works can be arranged in three “chronological” groups:[1]

  • The two works of the early 1660s:
    • A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (London, 1662); a number of editions of the Treatise appeared during Petty's life: 1662, 1667, 1679 and 1685. Although Petty later showed dissatisfaction with this work, “presumably because it did not bring him the influence and office he wanted, (...) the Treatise remains his most important (economic, db) work and deserves to be regarded as a major achievement and landmark in the history of economic thought.”[1][2][3]
    • Verbum Sapienti (written 1665,[4] published London, 1691)
  • The two (statistical) works of the early 1670s:
    • The Political Anatomy of Ireland (written 1671-2,[5] published London, 1690)
    • Political Arithmetic (written 1672-6, published London, 1690)[6]
  • Several works on population, including:
    • Essays in Political Arithmetic (1680s)
    • An Essay Concerning the Multiplication of Mankind (1682)
  • and the pamphlet

Tracts (1769)

  • 1769: Tracts; chiefly relating to Ireland.[8]
I. A Treatise of Taxes and Contributions.
II. Essays in Political Arithmetic.
III. The Political Anatomy of Ireland.
by the late Sir William Petty. To which is prefixed his last will. Dublin : Printed by Boulter Grierson, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty. MDCCLXIX.

The Down Survey (1851)

Edited from a manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin, with another in the possession of the most noble the Marquis of Lansdowne, and one in the Library of the King's Inn, Dublin, by Thomas Aiskew Larcom, F.R.S., M.R.I.A. Etc., Major, Royal Engineers. Dublin : For the Irish Archæological Society, MDCCCLI.

The Economic Writings (1899)


His economic writings were published in 1899 by Charles Henry Hull (1864-1936), together with an introduction about his life and work:

  • 1899: The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty. Edited by Charles Henry Hull. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.[10][11] in two volumes.
    • Volume 1 (transcription project) contains:
    • Volume 2 (transcription project) contains:
      • Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality. By Capt. John Graunt. The Fifth Edition. London, 1676. p. 314-345
      • Sir William Petty's Quantulumcunque concerning Money. (written 1682, published London, 1695). p. 437-448
      • Another Essay in Political Arithmetick concerning the Growth of the City of London. (written 1682, published London, 1683). p. 451-478
      • Observations upon the Dublin-Bills of Mortality, 1681, and the State of that City. (London, 1683). p. 479-491
      • Further Observation upon the Dublin-Bills: or, Accompts of the Houses, Hearths, Baptisms, and Burials in that City. (London, 1686). p. 493-498
      • Two Essays in Political Arithmetick, concerning the People, Housing, Hospitals, &c. of London and Paris. (London, 1687). p. 515-518
      • Observations upon the Cities of London and Rome. (London, 1687). p. 521-544
      • Five Essays in Political Arithmetick. (London, 1687). p. 521-544
      • A Treatise of Ireland. (1687). From the Additional MS. in the British Museum. p. 545-621[12]
      • Appendix. p. 622-632
      • Bibliography of the Printed Writings of Sir William Petty, p. 633-652. Including:
      • Supplement to the Bibliography of Petty's Works. p. 653-657
      • Bibliography of the Natural and Political Observations. p. 658-660
      • List of Books and Manuscripts used. p. 661-672
      • Index. p. 673-700
  • Laughlin, Laurence J. (1899) in The Journal of Political Economy, vol. 8, p. 121-2.[13]

Complete bibliography


See also: Keynes 1971.[14]

  • 1667? An apparatus to the history of the common practices of dying, etc. in "History of the Royal Society (1734, 4th ed.), by Thomas Sprat

Works about William Petty and his works



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hutchison, Terence (1988) - Before Adam Smith : The Emergence of Political Economy, 1662-1776. Oxford / New York : Basil Blackwell. ISBN 0 631 15898 7, p. 29
  2. OCLC:220175706all editions
  3. An online version of the Treatise in one txt-file can be found on this page in the Archive for the History of Economic Thought at Mc Master University CA.
  4. Economic writings (1899) says [1664].
  5. Economic writings (1899) says [1672].
  6. The text of Political Arithmetic is online available at
  7. Translation by Strathern, Paul (2001) - Dr Strangelove's Game : a brief history of economic genius. London : Hamish Hamilton.
  8. WorldCat entry for Tracts (1769); Tracts (1769) in IA. Tracts (1769) in Google books.
  9. Down Survey (1851): OCLC:844597959all editions, OCLC:559978382all editions. Down Survey (1851) in IA. Under the title History of the Cromwellian survey of Ireland, A.D. 1655-6: Commonly called "The down survey": OCLC:797286158all editions, in HathiTrust Digital library.
  10. Hull 1899: OCLC:803827975all editions.
  11. online versions of The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty in HathiTrust Digital Library
  12. transcription available at (access-date 2018-07-21)
  13. Laughlin (1899) in IA.
  14. About the "Petty-project", aiming at creating a complete bibliography of William Petty: see : this temporary page on Wikipedia.
  15. See also the 1790 edition of the Reflections in IA.
  16. For Aubrey's 'Life of Sir William Petty' see also: pdf of unknown origin in Webpages of Richard J. Pulskamp at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio. And see p. 139f. in the 1898 edition (vol. 2) by Andrew Clark of Aubrey's Brief Lives
  17. Bevan 1894 is online available at this page in the Archive for the History of Economic Thought of McMaster University.
  18. Hull 1900: OCLC:6911135865all editions. scan in IA.
  19. Hull 1900 reprinted in: Blaug, Mark (1991). Pre-Classical Economists : Charles Davenant (1656-1714) and William Petty (1623-1687) 1. Aldershot: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. pp. 1–34. ISBN 1 85278 468 7. OCLC 851111626. OL 8975604M. .
  20. Transcript of Hull 1900 as pdf at dominio publico brazil.
  21. Masson 1960: online available as pdf (accessed 2018-01-22).
  22. Although no abbreviation is given in the lemma, the Bibliography of Ingram gives this reference (see also the text on p. 724f. in vol. XVIII of the 9th ed. of the EB (1885)).

Some or all works by this author were published before January 1, 1929, and are in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago. Translations or editions published later may be copyrighted. Posthumous works may be copyrighted based on how long they have been published in certain countries and areas.

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