Unpublished Letters of Franklin to Strahan

A correspondence between the Founding Father and a fellow bookseller reveals much about eighteenth century printing—and Benjamin Franklin's character.

Philada April 14, 1745.

Sir,—The above is a Copy of mine p Capt. Martyn. I have only to desire you to add the following Books. 6 French Testaments, 12 Boyer’s Grammars, 12 Cord. Colloqu. French, 3 Cambray’s Fables, 3 Telamarque, 2 Travels of Cyrus, French, 2 Boyer’s Dictionaries 8º--1 new German & Eng. Dictionary & Grammar by Professor A. A. Lessing.

Yours &c.
B. Franklin.

Philada April 26, 1746.

Sir,—I have had no line from you since that dated June 1745, which with your equal Silence to our Friends Hall and Read, made me apprehend that Death had deprived me of the Pleasure I promised myself in our growing Friendship: But Lieut. Grung writing in Feb’y last that you and your Family were well, convinces me that some unlucky Accident has happened to your Letters.

I sent you in mine of Dec. 11 & Dec. 20 a List of some Books, &c. which I wanted, with a Bill for £15,7,1 Sterl. And as Mr. Collinson had his Letter which I then enclosed to you, there can be no need of copying what I sent you. I shall expect those Books in the next Vessel that arrives from London. & send you now enclosed another Bill for 15£ sterl.

I have not time to add but that I am with sincere respect.

Your obliged humb Servt.
B. Franklin.

Copy p Martyn
Who sailed Ap. 26

In our next three selection we gain a number of interesting glimpses at the life of the colonists and their relations to the mother country. The order for post horns suggests the methods employed by Postmaster Franklin for distributing letters and books.

Philada Sept. 25, 1746.

Sir,—Your Favours of Feb. 11 and May 1 are come to hand. Mesnard arrived safe this Morning, and I suppose I shall have the Trunks out in a day or two. Our other Ships Lisle and Houston not yet come, but daily expected. I am much obliged to you for your ready Compliance with my Requests. I sent you in the Spring a Bill on Messrs Hoare and Arnold for 15£ which I hope came to Hand, and will be as readily paid as that on George Rigge for £15,7,1. I now send you the following Bills, viz.

John Denny’s for            3, 5, 7
George Copper’s for       2, 8, 0
J. Bordly’s for                 4, 3, 3
Ra Page’s for                  4, 15, 0
Sarah Gresham’s for       4, 10, 0
Jno Bond’s for               13, 07, 9
                                    £32 : 19 : 7

I wish the Sum had been all in one Bill, as the Trouble to you would be less; but Bills have been scarce lately, and we were glad to get any. I think however to send you no more such small ones.

I shall as you desire deliver one of Ainsworth’s Dictionaries to Mr. Read. You will please to take the Charge of it from my Acc’t in your Book, and add it to his.

Please to send me p next Vessel 6 Dozen of Dycke’s Spelling Books, and as many of Owen’s, with a Dozen of Post Horns of different Sizes.—I shall speedily send you another Bill.

My Wife joins with me in Thanks to you and good Mrs. Strahan and young Master, for your great Kindness to our Daughter. She shall make her Acknowledgements herself as soon as she is able.

I congratulate you on the Defeat of Jacocbitism by your glorious Duke, and the Restoration of Peace and good Order within the Kingdom. We have just now an Account that a French Fleet of about 30 Sail were lately seen off Cape Sables; They are supposed to be from Brest. I hope they are followed by a superior Force from England, otherwise a great deal of Mischief may be done in North America.

I am sorry it so happen’d that Mr. Collinson had bespoke the Books. The next Catalogue sent to him will be accompanied with a Request that he should purchase them of you only.

Our Friends Messrs Hall and Read continue well. I am, Sir,

Your obliged humb Sert
B. Franklin.

In two copies of the above letter, sent by other ships, Franklin adds a postscript as follows: “Your Government sent no Fleet to protect us against the French under D’Anville. But they have been defeated by the Hand of God.”

Philada July 29, 1747.

Sir,—Your Favours of March 18 & April 1 are come to Hand with all the Books. &c. mentioned in the invoice, in good Order, and am much obliged to you for your ready Compliance with all my Requests.

I believe I could have got Subscriptions for 20 Sets of the Universal History, and perhaps more, but unluckily a Ship from Ireland has, since the Receipt of your Letter, brought in 20 Setts compleat, and they are offer’d at a lower Rate than the English Edition can be afforded at, even if I paid but 4 s p vol. I do what I can to lessen the Credit of that piratical Edition, and talk much of the Improvements made in this; but that being to be had entire immediately, and this not until after many Months, weighs a good deal with Some; and others object, that ’t is to be apprehended the London Booksellers will either curtail the folio Edition greatly to save Money, or put the Subscribers at last to the Expense of a greater Number of Volumes than 20; seeing the Volumes are much less than those of the Irish Edition, the 3 first of the one containing but little more than the first of the other.—If they think fit to venture a Parcel here Hall will do his best to dispose of them, and I will assist him what I can. They may send a Parcel also to Mr. Parker Printer of New York, a very honest punctual Man.

I am glad all the Bills I sent you have been paid or accepted. You may expect more in a short time, and after the next Parcel of Books are paid for you will chiefly have to deal with Mr. Hall, into whose Hands I have agreed to put the Shop, &c.

With all our best Respects to you & yours heartily wishing you Health and Happiness, I conclude

Your obliged humb Sert
B. Franklin.

p Mesnard

Philada Nov. 28, 1747.

Sir,—I received your Favour of June 11 p Capt. Tiflin, with the Books, &c. all in good Order. Mr. Parks, who drew the Bill on Guidart & Sons, is surpris’d at their protesting it, they having, as he says, large Effects of his in their Hands. He will speedily renew that Bill. Enclosed I send you a Bill on Xr Kilby, Esq for £19, 7, 1½ sterling, which I hope will be readily paid. And you may soon expect other Bills from me for larger sums.—What Books will be wanted for the Shop hereafter, Mr. Hall will write for. I shall send for no more, unless for myself or a Friend. I much desire you to send p first Opportunity the Maps formerly wrote for. Viz. Popple’s large one of North America pasted on Rollers; Ditto bound in a Book; and 8 or 10 other Maps of equal Size if to be had; they are for the long Gallery & the Assembly Room in the Statehouse. If none so large are to be got, let prospects of Cities, Buildings, &c. be pasted around them, to make them as large. I want also Folard’s Polybius, in French; it is 6 Vols. 4to printed at Paris, & costs about 3 guineas. My best Respects to good Mrs. Strahan; I know not but in another Year, I may have the Pleasure of seeing you both in London.—Please to deliver the enclosed to Mr. Ashworth; I know not where to direct to him.—I am, Dear Sir,

Your most obliged humb Servt
B. Franklin.

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