Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 79

but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty
to borrow such as he wish'd to read at home. This was accordingly
done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos'd to render
the benefit from books more common, by commencing a public
subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would
be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to
put the whole in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed, by
which each subscriber engag'd to pay a certain sum down for the first
purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So
few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of
us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry, to find more
than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for
this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On
this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was
opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their
promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The
institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns,
and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations;
reading became fashionable; and our people, having no publick
amusements to divert their attention from study, became better
acquainted with books, and in a few years were observ'd by strangers
to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same
rank generally are in other countries.

When we were about to sign the above mentioned articles, which were
to be binding on us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden,
the scrivener, said to us, "You are young men, but it is scarcely
probable that any of you will live to see the expiration of the term
fix'd in the instrument." A number of us, however, are yet living; but
the instrument was after a few years rendered null by a charter that
incorporated and gave perpetuity to the company.

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the
subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one's
self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos'd to
raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of one's
neighbours, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that
project. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and
stated it as a scheme of a _number of friends_, who had requested me
to go about

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Text Comparison with Franklin's Way to Wealth; or, "Poor Richard Improved"

Page 0
Page 1
Virtue and Innocence, a Poem 1 0 The Economy of Human Life 1 0 Old Friends in a New Dress, or Selections from Esop's Fables, in Verse, 2 parts, plates 2 0 Little Jack Horner, in Verse, plain 1s.
Page 2
However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us; "God helps them that help themselves," as Poor Richard says.
Page 3
Darton, Junr.
Page 4
Many, without labour, would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock;" whereas industry gives comfort, and plenty, and respect.
Page 5
A man may if he knows not how to save as he gets, "keep his nose all his life to the grindstone, and die not worth a groat at last.
Page 6
You expect they will be sold cheap, and, perhaps, they may for less than they cost; but, if you have no occasion for them, they must be dear to you.
Page 7
] 'And again, "Pride is as loud a beggar as Want, and a great deal more saucy.
Page 8
'This doctrine, my friends, is reason and wisdom; but, after all, do not depend too much upon your own industry, and frugality, and prudence, though excellent things; for they may all be blasted without the blessing of Heaven; and therefore, ask that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it, but comfort and help them.
Page 9
The people heard it, and approved the doctrine, and immediately practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common sermon; for the auction opened, and they began to buy extravagantly.