University of Chicago Library

Guide to the Jean Baptiste Say Collection 1794-1821

© 2016 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Say, Jean Baptiste. Collection




0.25 linear feet (1 box)


Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


Jean-Baptiste Say (1767 –1832) French economist. Best known for Say’s Law, he was a strong voice in the liberal tradition, arguing in favor of competition, free trade, and deregulation. The collection contains a series of correspondence between Say and a number of influential French writers of the time. The letters are mostly undated, though the dates available show the letters date from 1794 to 1821.

Information on Use


The collection is open for research.

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When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Say, Jean Baptiste. Collection, [Box #, Folder #], Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.

Biographical Note

Jean-Baptiste Say was born on January 5, 1767, in Lyon, France, to Jean-Etienne Say and Fraçoise Brun de Castanet. He had three siblings, Denis Say, Jean Henri Say, and Lous Auguste Horace Say (who was also an economist). In 1785, Say traveled to England with his brother, Horace, to complete his education at a private school in Croydon. Say returned to France in 1787 and began work at a life assurance company.

Say published his first work, on the liberty of the press, in 1789. By 1793, he had become the secretary to Clavière, the finance minister. In 1793, he married Julie Gourdel-Deloches. Together they had two children, Horace Emile Say and Adrienne Say.

From 1794 to 1800, Say worked as the editor of La Decade philosophique, litteraire, et politique, a periodical in which he refined his own economic views as well. The periodical established his reputation as a publicist, and he was selected as one of the members of the tribunate for the consulate government estbalished in 1799. He continued publishing in the following years, and in 1803, published his principal work, the Traité d'économie politique ou simple exposition de la manière dont se forment, se distribuent et se composent les richesses. A second and third edition of this work was published in 1814 and 1817, respectively.

In 1819, Say co-founded the ESCP Europe, which became the first business school in the world. In 1826, he was elected as a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and in 1831, he was made a professor of political economy at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers. Late in his life, at this point, Say was subjected to attacks of nervous apoplexy, particularly after the death of his wife in 1830. Say later died in Paris on November 15, 1832. He is buried in Les Invalides, the resting place of many of France’s most influential figures, including Napolean Bonaparte.

Scope Note

The Jean Baptiste Say Collection contains a small series of letters sent from Say to a number of French contemporaries. Some letters are undated, but the dates available suggest these letters were written between 1794 and 1821. One letter appears to be a draft of a contract between Say and Jean François Pierre Deterville, a French publisher.

The collection was previously part of the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection.

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Box 1   Folder 1

Jean Baptiste Say to M. Ailhaud, December 11, 1818

  • Autograph letter signed. Folded letter sheet with address. This letter is addressed to the bookseller and publisher Aillaud. Concerns the French version of David Ricardo's book, On the principles of political economy and taxation.

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Box 1   Folder 2

Draft contract between Jean Baptiste Say and Jean François Pierre Deterville, June 24, 1819

  • Autograph draft of contract between Say and the publisher, Jean François Pierre Deterville, regarding the fourth edition of Say's book, Traité d'économie politique.

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Box 1   Folder 3

Jean Baptiste Say to M. Tullien, February 3, 1821

  • Autograph letter signed. Signed by Say. Folded letter sheet with address. Say requests the name and address of the author of an article that appeared in the Revue Encyclopédique (July 1820).

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Box 1   Folder 4

Jean Baptiste Say to Amaury Duval, dated "le 1er ventose,” circa 1794-1806

  • Autograph letter signed. Signed by Say. Refers to the periodical that he published with Amaury Duval, "Décade philosophique, littéraire et politique."

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Box 1   Folder 5

Jean Baptiste Say to unknown recipient, dated “le 22 floréal," circa 1794-1806

  • Autograph letter signed. Signed by Say. Refers to notes about Joseph Priestley.

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