Item #4777 Saggio Filosofico su i contratti e giochi d’azzaro. Niccola CODRONCHI.
Saggio Filosofico su i contratti e giochi d’azzaro
Saggio Filosofico su i contratti e giochi d’azzaro
Florence, Gaetano Cambiagi, 1783.

Saggio Filosofico su i contratti e giochi d’azzaro.

8vo. [21 x 14 cm], (4) ff., 123 pp. (p. 124 blank). Bound in contemporary vellum-backed patterned boards with matching patterned edges, gilt title label on spine. Armorial bookplate of Giuliano Monaldini on verso of title page. Boards slightly worn, otherwise a very fresh, genuine copy.

First and sole edition of a very rare work on the underlying principles of insurance contracts and business ventures, focusing in particular on the psychological, ethical, and mathematical dimensions of risk-taking. In line with contemporary theories of Italian Enlightenment about economics and particularly Pietro Verri’s Meditazioni sulla economia politica (1771), Codronchi states early on that “there is perhaps no other more constant and universal desire among men than the desire to enrich themselves” (p. 1). He links man’s readiness to undertake risks to hope—a factor, that defines what he calls “chance contracts” (contratto di azzardo).

Codronchi distinguishes between three types of chance contracts: those in which the ratio between favorable and unfavorable events is known; those in which this ratio can be determined with the help of experience; and those, in which this ratio is based on laws and partly on experience. Discussing the effects of hope on decision-making, he offers mathematical calculations of probability based on historical precedents among other things and of how to apply these calculations to the price at which the parties contract.

The second half of the 18th century marked an important turning point in the development of modern insurance and risk-taking. Prior to the creation of the first insurance company—Lloyd’s of London—in 1688, insurance had been a relatively simple business chiefly limited to guarding against the loss of cargo on maritime trade voyages. Five years after Lloyd’s formation, the astronomer Edmund Halley created a basis for underwriting life insurance by combining the statistical laws of mortality with the principle of compound interest, but his table was limited by using the same rate for all ages. This shortcoming was corrected in 1756 by Joseph Dodson, who scaled premiums to age, launching a new era of insurance theory and risk-assessment. It is such refinements, their basis in probability, and their impact on behavior, which the present work explores.

A mathematician and economist, Niccola Codronchi (1751-1818) came from a noble family. He served at the court of the Kingdom of Naples, first under Ferdinand I and then under Joseph Bonaparte, who appointed him Councilor of State.  

Our copy of the book comes from the library of Giuliano Monaldini, a member of a noble Ravenna family.

OCLC locates only one copy of this work in the U. S.—at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

*Kress Italian 512; Mansutti 346; not in Goldsmith.


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