The Great Books of Liberty – the “Guillaumin Collection”

Interview with Ross Cameron on TNT Radio 24 Sept. 2023

My collection of texts about liberty is in the tradition of earlier publishers who helped promote the spread of classical liberal ideas, such as Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) and Gilbert Guillaumin (1801–1864).

Thomas Hollis (1720-1774) was active in pre-revolutionary North America and published beautifully bound copies of great books about liberty in the North American colonies. The American “Founding Fathers” all owned and read copies of his editions of John Locke, John Milton, Algernon Sidney, etc. His editions were illustrated on the leather covers and the title page with his emblems such as the Phrygian or “Liberty Cap” worn by freed slaves in the Roman republic and empire, and a dagger symbolizing the weapon used to the tyrant Julius Caesar. He also produced “post cards” with pictures of these leading liberals to advertise his books.

Gilbert Guillaumin (1801–1864) and his daughters Félicité and Pauline. ran a publishing firm in France between 1837 and 1910 (74 years) and published a total of 2,356 titles at an average of 31.8 titles p.a. During the Second Republic (1848–1852) 204 titles were published at an average of 41 p.a. During the Second Empire (1853–1870) 704 titles were published at an average of 39 p.a.

On a trip to Paris with my daughter some years ago I stayed in a rather shabby hotel on the Rue de Richelieu where the Guillaumin firm had its headquarters hoping I could feel the spirit of the liberals past who had walked that street and attended meetings in its building. The sad story is that the firm and its papers were destroyed when the Nazis occupied Paris in 1940 thus bringing an end to journals like the Journal des Économistes which had been published by Guillaumin from 1842 to 1940.

I have named my special collection of titles of “The Great Books of Liberty” the “Guillaumin Collection” in honor of these three members of the Guillaumin family and publishing firm. So far there are 123 titles by 64 authors.

Just today I have begun publishing these titles on Amazon Direct under my own publishing label of “The Pittwater Free Press”. The symbol I use for the Collection is also the “Phrygian cap” of the freed slave. I thought the name of my publishing endeavor “The Pittwater Free Press” was a good one because in the early years of the colony in Sydney Pittwater was a major route into the city for smugglers (mainly alcohol). Smuggling of course is the derogatory name given to ”free trade” by those who want to tax it or stop it. So appropriately, the first title is the first edition (1776) of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations since 1.) it is the classic defence of free trade against the protectionist “mercantilist system” of this day, and 2.) because this year is the 300th anniversary of his birth.

The first title at Amazon is Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1790) which is in ePub (Kindle) format here.

People on the left are very good at remembering their history and the key thinkers and activists in their tradition. The right is much less aware of its own past and its leading figures which is a great pity and something which my website might be able to correct.

The year 2023 is also the anniversary of several other important dates in the history of classical liberalism which, as an historians, I want to commemorate:

  1. the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio Edition in 1623 of the plays of William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
  2. the 400th anniversary of the birth of Algernon Sidney (1623-1683) whose posthumous work is Discourses concerning Government was published in 1698.
  3. the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Smith (1723-1790), who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776 and The Theory of Moral Sentiments in 1759 (I have online the revised 1790 ed.)
  4. the 300th anniversary of the birth of Adam Ferguson (1723-1797), who wrote An Esssay on the History of Civil Society in 1782.
  5. the 300th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of the collected Cato’s Letters (1723-24) by John Trenchard (1662-1723) and Thomas Gordon (1691-1750)
  6. the 200th anniversary of the publication of Benjamin Constant’s work on economics Commentaire sur l’ouvrage de Filangieri in 1822-24.
  7. the 100th anniversary of the death of Vilfredo Pareto (1845-1923) who wrote Traité de sociologie générale in 1917.
  8. the 50th anniversary of the death of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973). 2022 was the 100th anniversary of the publication of his seminal critique of socialism Die Gemeinwirtschaft (1922). We have the second edition of 1932 online in German. We also have the 1936 English translation Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.

There are a couple of Australians in this pantheon of great classical liberal thinkers.

William Hearn (1826-1888) was the 1st professor of political economy at the University of Melbourne and a follower of the great French classical liberal Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). He published his lectures as Plutology or the Theory of the Efforts to Satisfy Human Wants (1863).

Arthur Bruce Smith (1851–1937)
was a follower of the English group of radical individualists who were part of the “Liberty and Property Defense League. Smith wrote a wonderful defence of classical liberalism in his book Liberty and Liberalism: A Protest against the growing Tendency toward undue Interference by the State, with Individual Liberty, Private Enterprise and the Rights of Property (1887). Later was elected the NSW MP representing the Sydney suburban electorate of Parkes (1901-1919).

I still have many more titles I want to add. This will keep me off the streets for a while I should think.