In economics, just as in other sciences, it is by no means an exceptional occurrence to find that, no sooner has a “new” doctrine made its mark, than earlier, completely forgotten writers are discovered who perceived those newly accepted ideas with brilliant insight in their own day and set them down in their writings. In our field Oresmius, Monchretien, Barbon, Rae, W. F. Lloyd, Cournot, Jennings, Longfield, and Gossen are just a few of the best known instances of this kind. In scarcely any field, however, will one find a case similar to that of Cantillon’s
Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, which, having greatly influenced the molding of a science and fully articulated it for the first time, was at once entirely forgotten and remained in obscurity for roughly a century until, re-discovered by accident, its second emergence proved sensational. Other, no less exciting aspects were opened up by the research which led to this achievement. The contemporaries who witnessed the publication of this book in 1755 had but a vague and partly incorrect knowledge of its author, who had died twenty-one years previously, and yet even in its latent form as manuscript the work had exerted a subterranean influence which can only now be appreciated…. [From the text]