Ricardo on value: the three chapter ones


David Ricardo’s On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation appeared in three editions—in 1817, 1819 and 1821. The Advertisement to the third edition begins

In this Edition I have endeavoured to explain more fully than in the last, my opinion on the difficult subject of VALUE, and for that purpose have made a few additions to the first chapter.

Ricardo made more than a few additions and he re-wrote and re-organised much of the old material as well.


This website contains all three versions of the first chapter of the book: On Value. They are worth reproducing because


Piero Sraffa’s great edition of the Principles was wonderfully resourceful in its treatment of the three variants. With ingenuity, photocopying, scissors & paste it is possible to generate the first two editions from the third (the copy text). Then, with a big enough area, it is possible to view the editions side by side. However it is easier to work with electronic versions of the documents.



What’s here?

(1) and (2) provide access to the three versions of chapter 1 while (3) recasts Sraffa’s footnotes and concordances in a form appropriate to the present medium.

1.      The three attempts to explain value are presented more or less as they appeared in print in 1817, 1819 and 1821. The original page breaks are respected but not the line breaks!

2.      The different editions (with minimal annotation) are juxtaposed:  Editions 1 and 2   and   Editions 2 and 3  and  Editions 1 and 3

3.      The transition from 1 to 3 is shown through two annotated comparisons:  Editions 1 and 2   and   Editions 2 and 3.

·        The fairly straightforward changes between editions 1 and 2 are highlighted.

·        In the transition from 2 to 3 the changes are identified and the re-located paragraphs are traced to their origins.



What’s NOT here!

There’s no editorial commentary.  Serious students will still want to consult Sraffa for the introduction and all the other valuable editorial material. This web presentation is more of a companion to Sraffa than a substitute for it!




From a very extensive literature I will mention just two items:

D. P. O’Brien, 1975. The Classical Economists, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (A good example of a history of economic thought textbook putting Ricardo’s chapter into a larger perspective.)

Terry Peach, 1993. Interpreting Ricardo, London: Cambridge University Press. (A major contribution to understanding the evolution of Ricardo’s views on value as well as an excellent survey of  recent Ricardo scholarship.)





Editions of the Principles

There have been numerous popular editions but from a textual point of view the editions Ricardo brought out and the Sraffa edition are all that require notice.

      1817. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. London: John Murray.

      1819. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Second edition. London: John Murray.

1821. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Third edition. London: John Murray.

1951. On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Volume I of The Works & Correspondence of David Ricardo edited by Piero Sraffa with the collaboration of M. H. Dobb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.




I have checked the texts against the originals in the Goldsmiths’ Library of the University of London but there are sure to be errors. If you spot any, please let me know.



                  John Aldrich, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK. (home) 

                                                                                                  6th October 2002