Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 45

the other colonial printers may be
stated thus: Franklin maintained a high average of workmanlike (though
not inspired) performance, while his contemporaries were inclined to be
slovenly, inaccurate, and generally careless.

In the later years of his life Franklin gave no little attention to fine
printing, though as a dilettante rather than as a commercial printer. In
France he was friendly with Francois Ambroise Didot, the greatest French
printer of his times, and put his grandson Benjamin Franklin Bache to
school in Didot's establishment. With Pierre Simon Fournier, who ranked
next to Didot among French printers, Franklin corresponded from time to
time. In England the American printer maintained touch with prominent
practitioners of his craft from the time of his first visit abroad until
his death. Samuel Palmer, Franklin's first London employer, was but a
mediocre printer; but John Watts, to whose house the young American went
after a year at Palmer's, stood much higher in his vocation.[i-167] Both
Watts and Palmer were patrons of William Caslon, from whom Franklin
later bought type. But John Baskerville, Caslon's rival, was the founder
whom Franklin did most to encourage and to bring to the attention of
discriminating printers. The English printer with whom Franklin was upon
the terms of greatest intimacy--and that for many years--was William
Strahan, member of Parliament, King's Printer, and a successful
publisher. Strahan was a man of parts, a great letter writer, and a
friend of David Hume and Samuel Johnson. The latter referred to the
Strahan shop as "the greatest printing house in London."[i-168] Another
correspondent was John Walter, logotyper, press builder, and founder of
the London _Times_.[i-169] In all his letters to his printer friends,
Franklin shows not only a lively interest in improvements and inventions
for the trade, but also an increasing interest in the artistic side of
printing and type-founding.

The "bookish inclination" which Franklin credits in the _Autobiography_
with being the quality that decided his father to make a printer of him,
appertained to the trade because printers were commonly publishers and
sellers of books and pamphlets, and often editors and publishers of
newspapers. How the young Franklin satisfied his literary urge in the
print shop of his brother James is a familiar story, and his theories of
writing are traced in another section of this Introduction. The
contribution to literature which he made as a publisher of original
books is negligible, but he did his part both as publisher and
bookseller to spread that bookishness to which he felt that he owed much
of his own success. Like all publishers before and since, he was forced
by his customers to issue books

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Text Comparison with Benjamin Franklin and the First Balloons

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The documents which I publish are copies of Franklin's letters, made on thin paper in a copying press (probably the rotary machine invented by Franklin), and all but one bear his signature in ink.
Page 1
A hollow Globe 12 feet Diameter was formed of what is called in England Oiled Silk, here _Taffetas gomme_, the Silk being impregnated with a Solution of Gum elastic in Lintseed Oil, as is said.
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It is said the Country People who saw it fall were frightned, conceiv'd from its bounding a little, when it touched the Ground, that there was some living Animal in it, and attack'd it with Stones and Knives, so that it was much mangled; but it is now brought to Town and will be repaired.
Page 4
We have only at present the enclosed Pamphlet, which does not answer the expectation given us.
Page 5
Most is expected from the new one undertaken upon subscription by Messieurs Charles and Robert, who are Men of Science and mechanic Dexterity.
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There was a vast Concourse of Gentry in the Garden, who had great Pleasure in seeing the Adventurers go off so chearfully, & applauded them by clapping &c.
Page 7
The Gores that compose it are red and white Silk, so that it makes a beautiful appearance.
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It does not seem to me a good reason to decline prosecuting a new Experiment which apparently increases the Power of Man over Matter, till we can see to what Use that Power may be applied.
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) PASSY, Dec.
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I write this at 7 in the Evening.
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_ The hand-writing is in a more flowing style than the subsequent letters.
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As this interesting document has never been published, to my knowledge, I have given it here _literatim_ from my press-copy.
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les deux tiers de leur Approvisionement.