IT is the book that founded the science of political economy and made Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith world famous.

Published in 1776, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations had an initial print run of 2000 copies and would have set you back a whopping £1 and 16 shillings.

Now a rare first edition of Wealth of Nations has been found during a clean-up of the library of the Dutch houses of parliament, and it’s worth many, many times its original price.

In an astonishing coincidence, the two-volume book that advocates free trade was found hidden behind a copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, published in 1867.

Marx’s book is one of the foundation tracts of socialism and communism and is said to be the most-quoted book in the social sciences published before 1950, while Wealth of Nations is the second-most-quoted.

The newly found book is not for sale, and is being restored by specialists. The Dutch parliament’s archivists were cataloguing the book collection when the edition of Wealth of Nations was found. Book historian Alex Alsemgeest told Dutch MPs about the discovery at a special presentation and the book is now on display in the parliament. Although the book is not particularly rare in terms of the history of first editions, largely because of the large initial print run – it sold out in six months and a further four editions were printed in Smith’s lifetime – it is considered to be the Holy Grail sought by American book collectors and could be worth up to $200,000.

Smith wrote the book while he was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. It took him 10 years to complete.

Dozens of other rare books have also been found during the search in the Dutch parliament library, some of them described as “priceless”.

Parliamentary chairwoman Khadija Arib said: “The books and pamphlets from pre-1800 reflect the history of how the modern Netherlands was formed. This historic collection gives a glimpse into the origins of the lower house of parliament.”