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The Essays in Political Arithmetick, belong, in large part, to the fourth period of Petty's literary activity, and most, though not all of them were written in London. The circumstances which led to the writing of the various essays are indicated, so far as known, in connection with each essay severally. Petty never grouped the series, and it is uncertain who edited the collection published in 1699[1] . The order then adopted was chronological by date of publication, and it has been here adhered to save as regards the Political Arithmetick. That book, because first published (as supposed) in 1691, was made to follow the Five Essays, though it has little direct connection with them. I have transposed it to the first volume, a position which indicates more correctly its true chronological place among Petty's writings. The Essays thus follow Graunt's Observations, to which in subject and treatment they are more closely related than to Petty's other writings, and also precede the Treatise of Ireland, with which their chronological connection is most intimate.

The Essays were chiefly written in Petty's last years, when his health was much impaired[2], and were almost immediately put to press. No necessity for circulating them in MS. arose and no MSS. of them are known. They are here reprinted not from the posthumous collected edition of 1699, but from the several original editions, the proof of nearly all of which doubtless passed under Petty's eye.

  1. Meitzen suggests that the editor was "John Williamson" (probably Sir Joseph is intended), but the suggestion seems to rest solely upon a misreading of Anthony à-Wood. Geschichte der Statistik, 15. Thorpe's Cat. lib. MSS. bibl. Southwellianæ, lot 710, describes a draft of a letter, dated 26 Dec., 1698, from Sir Robert Southwell to Petty's son Henry, afterwards Baron Shelburne, "relative to Sir William Petty's papers, some of which were then reprinting."
  2. Fitzmaurice, 289 seq.