University of Delaware Library

Special Collections

Benjamin Franklin - Printer

Benjamin Franklin Franklin apprenticed as a printer with his brother James in Boston until disagreements caused him to leave home at the age of eighteen. Arriving in Philadelphia, he again worked as an apprentice until he was able to set up his own business in 1728. His earliest printing jobs were for legal documents and religious works. In 1729, he took over a failing newspaper and reestablished it as the Pennsylvania Gazette. He expanded his business in 1733 with the publication of the first issue of Poor Richard's Almanack. The newspaper and almanacs proved to be successful and allowed Franklin to devote more time to political and civic interests. His move to England in 1757 brought an end to his active involvement with his printing business, now managed by his partner David Hall.
Alexander Arscott, 1676-1737.
Some Considerations Relating to the Present State of the Christian Religion. Philadelphia: London, printed, reprinted by B. Franklin, at the New Printing-Office in Philadelphia, 1732.

Conductor Generalis: or, The Office, Duty and Authority of Justices of the Peace, High-Sheriffs, Under-Sheriffs, Goalers, Coroners, Constables, Jury-Men, Over-seers of the Poor. Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by B.Franklin and D. Hall, 1749.

Counties of New-Castle, Kent, and Sussex upon Delaware.
Laws of the Government of New-Castle, Kent and Sussex, upon Delaware. Published by order of the Assembly
. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin and D. Hall, 1752.
Library Company of Philadelphia.
The Charter, Laws, and Catalogue of Books, of the Library Company of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: B. Franklin and D. Hall, 1764.

Marcus Tullius Cicero.
M.T. Cicero's Cato Major, or, His Discourse on Old Age.
Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, 1744.

Next to his almanacs, the Cato Major is probably Franklin's best-known publication. The work by the great Roman orator and philosopher was translated, with explanatory notes, by Chief Justice James Logan of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, who after William Penn and Franklin was the most important individual in the early history of Pennsylvania. Cato Major is generally conceded to be the finest product of Franklin's press, if not the eighteenth century American press.

Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates


1747 Almanack Annual almanacs were a popular, widely available and inexpensive publication in the eighteenth century. They contained weather forecasts, recipes and homilies. Among Franklin's earliest commissions was the printing of Thomas Godfrey's Almanack for the Year 1730. The first edition of his Poor Richard Almanack was the 1733 edition, published in December 1732. Franklin's Almanack, with the delightful and earthy "Poor Richard" as the supposed author, was by far the most successful of the almanacs, establishing both Franklin's fame and fortune. Poor Richards were published into the nineteenth century, but Franklin was directly responsible for only the first twenty-five, those for the years 1733 to 1758.

Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790.
Poor Richard, 1747: An Almanack for the Year of Christ, 1747 by Richard Saunders. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, 1746.

Poor Richard Improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris … for the Year of Our Lord 1757. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin and D. Hall, 1756.

Poor Richard Improved … Philadelphia: printed by D. Hall and W. Sellers, 1769.
"Poor Richard" was Richard Saunders, an indigent man who constantly needed money to take care of his carping wife. What distinguished Franklin's almanacs were his witty aphorisms and lively writing. Many of the famous phrases associated with Franklin, such as, "A penny saved is a penny earned" come from Poor Richard.

Franklin's Library

More than fifty years ago, Edwin Wolf 2d, then librarian of the Library Company of Philadelphia, began reconstructing Franklin's personal library. The project was unfinished at the time of Wolf's death in 1991 and is being completed by Dr. Kevin J. Hayes of the University of Central Oklahoma. Dr. Hayes has identified four books in Special Collections as having been owned by Franklin. These books were donated to the University of Delaware by the Moyerman family, who purchased them at Freeman's Auction in Philadelphia in 1949. They had previously been owned by Rev. J. F. Naughton, who purchased them from the collection of Nannie T. Bache, a descendent of Franklin.

Thomas Hayes.
A Serious Address on the Dangerous Consequences of Neglecting Common Coughs and Colds. London: Printed for J. Murray, 1785.

Inscription on title page: "W. T. Franklins."

Hugh Blair, 1718-1800.
Essays on Rhetoric: Abridged Chiefly from Doctor Blair's Lectures on that Science. London: Printed for J. Murray, 1784.

Signed W. T. Franklin. William Temple Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's grandson, lived and worked with Franklin during the time he served as American minister to the Court of France. According to Dr. Hayes, "WTF's books were BF's books. BF paid for them, and all were shelved together in Paris."

Nicolas Eymerich, 1320-1399.
Le manuel des inquisiteurs: à l'usage des inquisitions d'Espagne & de Portugal: ou, Abregé de l'ouvrage intitulé Directorium inquisitorum. A Lisbonne: 1762.

Aimé Amboise Joseph Feutry, 1720-1789.
Opuscules poëtiques et philologiques. A La Hayes; et se trouve à Paris: Chez Delalain, 1771.

Inscribed on title page "From the Author to W T Franklin, 1777."

Introduction | Scientist | Author |Abolitionist | Statesman

Return to Special Collections

Return to Exhibitions

For reference assistance email Special Collections
or contact:
Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Last modified: 12/21/10

  • UD Library Special Collections  •   181 South College Avenue  •   Newark, DE 19717-5267  •   USA
    Phone: USA +1 302-831-2229  •   ©2014