Poor Richard Improved

AMERICAN REVOLUTION   |   Benjamin FRANKLIN

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“POOR RICHARD HAD NO RIVAL”: SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF POOR RICHARD IMPROVED, 1766, THE FIRST PUBLISHED BY FRANKLIN’S SUCCESSORS, HALL & SELLERS, ISSUED THE SAME YEAR HALL AND FRANKLIN ENDED THEIR LONG PARTNERSHIP “WITH A BIT OF ACRIMONY” IN THE WAKE OF THE STAMP ACT

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) (FRANKLIN, Benjamin) SAUNDERS, Richard. Poor Richard Improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon… For the Year of our Lord 1767. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by D. Hall and W. Sellers, [1766]. 12mo (4 by 7 inches), original printed self-wrappers, re-stitched as originally issued, uncut; pp. (36). $2800.

Scarce first edition of the first Poor Richard printed by Franklin’s successors, Hall and Sellers, issued in Philadelphia one year after the incendiary Stamp Act triggered colonial rebellion, containing the woodcut “Anatomy of Man’s Body as govern’d by the Twelve Constellations” and woodcut headpieces for each of the 12 months of 1767, along with a lengthy extract from Dr. Tissot’s popular Advice to the People, entirely uncut and in rarely found original self-wrappers.

Franklin’s “Poor Richard had no rival in popularity among the publications of the American colonies.” (Van Wyck Brooks). Franklin first issued his Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1732, initiating a series that “is beyond question the most famous of almanacs” (Ford, 11). “For more than 200 years Poor Richard’s has been an American classic… Historians and biographers often ranked the almanacs with the famous autobiography as a source for Franklin’s life and thought” (Complete Poor Richard’s, v-vi.). Franklin’s and other colonial almanacs also “played an important role in consolidating public opinion in favor of resistance to Parliament and, eventually, independence from England” (Thompson, Modest Proposals, 75).

Franklin, abroad from 1758-62 and returning briefly to America from 1762-64, maintained a distant if over-arching interest with the almanacs and printer David Hall during that time. With passage of the 1765 Stamp Act, however, their partnership began to fray. The Stamp Act especially angered colonial printers such as Hall, who did not advertise the previous year’s Poor Richard Improved, likely due to “the turmoil over the Stamp Act” (Miller 851). Hall, in Philadelphia, could not escape witnessing the immediate force of colonial rage, while Franklin, back in Britain, continued to hope for reconciliation even as he “felt himself caught in a widening gulf” (Wood, 125). In 1766, when Franklin and Hall ultimately dissolved their partnership—the same year in which this Poor Richard was published—“the end came with a bit of acrimony” (Isaacson, 233-4). Like other colonial almanacs, Poor Richard almanacs were “compact little wonders, they were printed on cheap paper and had no real binding. They were meant for daily use, and surviving examples are often… torn apart” (Chaplin, 62). This Poor Richard Improved marks the first Poor Richard issued by the partnership of David Hall and William Sellers; “the new firm carried on government printing, including paper money for the Province of Pennsylvania” (American Philosophical Society). “Advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Philadelphia, Aug. 28, 1766” (ESTC W36924). Containing a lengthy extract from Samuel Tissot’s Advice to the People (1761) on “most usual Causes of popular Diseases,” along with popular aphorisms, notice of Quaker meetings, court calendars and more. With woodcut “Anatomy of Man’s Body as govern’d by the Twelve Constellations” and woodcut headpieces for each of the 12 months. Sabin 25567. Evans 10488. Early owner signature. Occasional early marginalia.

Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, some minor expert paper reinforcement to some corners and gutter edges.

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