Books that made Europe:economic governance and democracy

"Books That Made Europe" is an exhibition at Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Brussels, until 28 January 2017. It celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome (1957), establishing the European Economic Community, and the 50th anniversary of the European Community, and showcases some of the most iconic books on the history of economic governance and democracy in Europe. Senate House Library has lent four books, including William Petty’s A treatise of taxes & contributions (1662).

Petty's Treatise advises that “as wiser physicians tamper not excessively with their patients… so in politicks and  ’oeconomicks’ the same must be used “. 

Over 180 books are displayed showing the ideas that lead to the foundations of European democracy, spreading knowledge across countries and establishing ground rules and principles to govern the economy. The exhibition illustrates the emergence of a modern capitalist society in its transition from monarchic, feudal systems to contemporary democracy.

The books are displayed in cases that are designed to reflect the concrete of Bibliotheca Wittockiana's late 20th-century architecture, a far cry from the sedate shelves of their home library.

The loan also includes John Locke’s Some considerations … of the lowering of interest (1692), where he writes: "that which regulates the price [of any commodity]... is nothing else but their quantity in proportion to their rent."  John Law, however, considered in Money and Trade (1705): “The prices of goods are not according to the quantity in proportion to their rent but in proportion to their demand.”

We have to protect the fragile books, so the damaged 17th-century leather binding on this copy of John Locke needed careful handling.

The fly leaf has also suffered, as the iron gall ink annotation has degraded the paper, another area where great care should be taken when the book is installed and de-installed. 

Once the exhibition closes, all four books will be safely escorted back to Britain before returning to their respective shelves in the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature in Senate House Library, ready for the next student of economic history to consult them.