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Benjamin Franklin - Author

Benjamin Franklin

Poor Richard

Franklin's almanacs were filled with advice and homilies. Many of these were extracted and republished under other titles, most often called The Way to Wealth. In 1777 Franklin's The Way to Wealth was translated as La Science du Bonhomme Richard. It became the most widely-read American work in France, going through four editions in two years and five more over the next two decades. Although Franklin viewed his work as a hodgepodge of borrowed proverbial wisdom and sometimes satirized his own advice, the French described his Bonhomme Richard maxims as philosophy worthy of Voltaire and Montaigne.


Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
La science du bonhomme Richard, ou, Moyen facile de payer les impôts. À Philadelphie; et se trouve à Paris: Chez Ruault ..., 1777.

The original of this essay was first published in Poor Richard's Almanack for 1758, was separately issued in 1760 under the title "Father Abraham's speech" and frequently reprinted under the title, "The Way to Wealth."


Way to Wealth Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Way to Wealth; or, Poor Richard Improved. Paris: Printed for Ant. Aug. Renouard, 1795.

This French edition includes material from several editions of Poor Richard and is printed partly in English and partly in French.


Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Path to Riches and Happiness: to which are added, The Apprentice's Monitor, or, Indentures in Vers: and The Market Woman, or, Honesty is the Best Policy, a True Tale. Dublin: W. Watson and Son, circa 1800.

This is a collection of chapbooks published in Ireland. They were originally published individually and sold for a penny. Included in this volume is the excerpt from Poor Richard's Almanack known as "Father Abraham's speech."


Collected Works

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals, of the Late Dr. Benjamin Franklin. London: Printed for J. Johnson and Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1806. Vol. 2.

Franklin studied and wrote prolifically about the natural world. He wrote about his observations on the effect of oil on water, the cause of the aurora borealis, water spouts, whirlwinds and thunderstorms, the direction of rivers and tides, sunspots, heat absorption based on the color of an object, magnetism and earthquakes. In this essay he describes the development of a water spout, a tornado occurring over water.

Gift of Samuel Stark


Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals, of the Late Dr. Benjamin Franklin. London: Printed for J. Johnson and Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1806. Vol. 3.

In the essay "Concerning New Settlements in America" (1783) Franklin states: The only encouragement we hold out to strangers are, a good climate, fertile soil, wholesome air and water, plenty of provisions and food, good pay for labour, kind neighbors, good laws, and a hearty welcome. The rest depends on a man's own industry and virtue.

Gift of Samuel Stark


Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Works of the Late Dr. Benjamin Franklin. New York: Printed by Samuel Campbell, 1794.

In the essay "On Modern Innovations in the English Language, and in Printing" (1789), Franklin responds to Noah Webster with comments on the growth of an American language, the decline in the use of Latin and the importance of clear and readable printing.
Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces. London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1779.

This is the only edition of Franklin's work published in England with his consent during the Revolutionary War. It was a great complement to his reputation even among the enemies of his young country.



The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin's is among the most widely read of all American autobiographies. Franklin began the memoir in 1771 as a letter to his son, William, the last royal governor of New Jersey. The remainder was composed much later in his life and published after his death.

When Franklin died in 1790, his grandson and literary executor, William Temple Franklin, had ambitious plans for the memoir, but the "official" version did not appear until 1818. Early in 1791, however, a French translation of the first part of the memoir was published in Paris. It is not known how the publisher obtained a copy of the manuscript.

Shown here are the first French, English and German editions, and the William Temple Franklin edition.


Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Mémoires de la vie privée de Benjamin Franklin, écrits par lui-méme, et adressés a son fils; suivis d'un précis historique de sa vie politique, et de plusieurs pièces, relatives à ce père de la liberté. Paris: Chez Buisson, 1791.
Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Benjamin Franklin's jugendjahre, von ihm selbst für seinen sohn beschrieben, und übers. von Gottfried August Bürger. Berlin: H. A. Rottmann, 1792.
Private Life Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin. Originally Written by Himself, and Now Translated from the French. London: Printed for J. Parsons, 1793.


Memoirs Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D., F.R.S. Written by Himself. Philadelphia: William Duane, 1818.


Other Writings

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
The Causes of the Present Distractions in America Explained: In Two Letters to a Merchant in London. Publisher unknown, 1774.

This essay is one of Franklin's most significant propaganda pieces for granting increased freedoms to the American colonists. It was first published in the London Chronicle in January 1768. It was reprinted in England and America the same year under the title "The Cause of the Present Discontent in America." On the whole moderate in tone, it attacked the incapacity and misrule of the colonial governors. Franklin had the essay republished in America in 1774 under the present title.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates


George Walker, 1803-1879.
The Chess Player: Illustrated with Engravings and Diagram: Containing Franklin's Essay on the Morals of Chess. Boston: N. Dearborn, 1841.

Benjamin Franklin wrote about chess in 1779:

The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have points to gain, and competition or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn: First, Foresight ... Second, Circumspection ... Third, Caution ... And lastly, We learn by Chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs the habit of hoping for a favorable chance, and that of persevering in the secrets of resources.

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790. .
Two Tracts: Information to Those Who Would Remove to America. And, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America. London: Printed for J. Stockdale, 1784.

After the end of the Revolution, interest in immigration to America increased dramatically. As America's envoy to France, Franklin set up a small printing office at Passy in Paris that grew into a full-blown diplomatic press. He printed "Information to Those Who Would Remove to America" and "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" in both French and English. These engaging and thought provoking essays were printed together in London in 1784 as Two Tracts, and editions soon appeared in Ireland, France, Italy, and Germany.

"Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" illustrates Franklin's open-mindedness regarding native peoples. He begins this work by stating, "Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours, which we think the perfection of civility; they think the same of theirs."

Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes


Introduction | Printer | Scientist |Abolitionist | Statesman


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