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ItemID: #114058
Cost: $1,800.00

Religion of Nature Delineated

Benjamin Franklin


(FRANKLIN, Benjamin) WOLLASTON, William. The Religion of Nature Delineated. London: S. Palmer, 1725. Quarto, contemporary full paneled brown calf rebacked, red morocco spine label; pp. 219 (1). Housed in a custom half calf slipcase. $1800.

1725 edition of a Wollaston work especially famed as one of the earliest works printed by the young Franklin in London, inspiring Franklin—in a "private give-and-take with the printed page"—to craft a response in one of his earliest works, the virtually unobtainable Dissertation on Liberty.

In 1723 a near-penniless young Franklin arrived in Philadelphia, where the eccentric Governor Keith "urged him to set up for himself and sent him off to London to buy equipment, promising him letters of credit for the purpose. In London (1724), no letters of credit being forthcoming, Franklin found employment at Palmer's printing-house" (ANB). Franklin, in his Autobiography, recalled: "At Palmer's I was employed in composing for the second edition [i.e. third edition] of Wollaston's Religion of Nature." In those months at Palmer's, "while composing pages for a new edition of a book by Wollaston, Franklin found himself quarreling with some of the author's 'Reasonings' as he set them in type, slipping into the kind of private give-and-take with the printed page that is second nature to an avid reader" (Anderson, Unfinished Life, 126).

Here Wollaston argues "that religious truths were to be gleaned through the study of science and nature rather than through divine revelation. With the intellectual spunk that comes from being youthful and untutored, Franklin decided that Wollaston was right in general but wrong in parts, and he set out his own thinking in a piece he wrote early in 1725 called A Dissertation on Liberty," a virtually unobtainable work he ultimately repudiated (Isaacson, 45-6). Wollaston's "one important work" (ANB) held a different meaning for Alexander Pope, who believed he capably reduced "all human nature… to one test—that of truth—and branched out in every instance our duty to God and man… Pope is said to `have taken some thoughts from it into his Essay on Man" (Allibone III: 2814). "Although referred to by Franklin as the second edition, it is really the third, as a privately printed edition of 1722 and a 1724 edition preceded it" (Murrey, Benjamin Franklin, 207). Title page with engraved vignette of a printing press; with engraved initial, head- and tailpiece. ESTC T138365. Campbell, 40; see Campbell, 39. Ford, xv-xvi. Lowndes, 2976. Bookplate, early owner inscription.

Interior generally clean, contemporary boards handsome.

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