“FRANKLIN’S DEISM AND HIS RELIGIOUS TOLERATION”: EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S POOR RICHARD’S IMPROVED… ALMANACK FOR 1757, WITH A SECTION ON “FREEDOM OF THE PRESS,” AN EXCEPTIONAL COPY FROM THE COLLECTION OF GROLIER CLUB FOUNDER ROBERT HOE
(FRANKLIN, Benjamin). Poor Richard Improved: Being an Almanack and Ephemeris of the Motions of the Sun and Moon; The True Places and Aspects of the Planets; The Rising and Setting of the Sun; And the Rising, Setting and Southing of the Moon, for the Year of Our Lord 1757. Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by B. Franklin and D. Hall, . 12mo (4 by 7 inches), late 19th-century full brown crushed morocco rebacked with original spine laid down, raised bands, marbled endpapers, uncut; pp. . Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Rare first edition of Franklin’s famed Poor Richard’s Improved… Almanack for 1757, with the famed woodcut of anatomical man “govern’d” by constellations and 12 woodcut panels, rarely found complete and uncut, this copy with an exceptional provenance—from the prized collection of renowned bibliophile Robert Hoe and containing the bookplate of fellow collector E.H. Litchfield. A fine uncut copy, bound in full crushed morocco by Bedford.
Franklin first issued Poor Richard's Almanack in 1732, using the pseudonym Richard Saunders and initiating a series that "is beyond question the most famous of almanacs, the most charming and readable of Franklin's writings" (Ford, 11). In addition to the Almanack's witty proverbs, this issue for 1757, rarely found complete, especially reveals how Franklin balanced relevance and humor with vigorous science and sly puzzles. "The annual puzzles got more complicated, as with 1757's teaser," set in the September section. Here we are asked to "imagine three ships, each occupied independently by Christians, Jews or Muslims. Each vessel leaves the same place but travels a different route under its religiously distinct crew. All return to the original port, where 'they shall differ so with respect to real and apparent Time, that they all shall keep their Sabbath on one and the same Day of the Week, and yet each of them separately shall believe that he keeps his Sabbath on the Day of the Week his Religion requires.' What had happened? To circumnavigate the globe meant losing or gaining a day of the week, depending on the direction of travel. In the case of Poor Richards three ships, some had gained or lost a critical day, creating a momentary Muslim-Christian-Jewish agreement over the Sabbath…. [His] challenge to differences among religions, but not to religion itself. The larger point, one that exemplified Franklin's deism and his religious toleration, was that the natural world inspired religious sentiment in everyone." Like other colonial almanacs, Franklin's 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, 56-61). While Franklin, after 1748, was no longer involved in the daily operations of his and Hall's busy printing concern, the historical record, Franklin scholarship and bibliographic authorities clearly note that his over-arching authorship role of the almanacs continued, along with the opportune supervision of their printing. With sections on "Freedom of the Press," "Doctor Pringle's Treatise," eclipses, court calendars, recipes, Quaker meetings, and a guide to sun dials. With woodcut "Anatomy of Man's Body as govern'd by the Twelve Constellations" and woodcut headpieces for each of the 12 months. Bound in full crushed morocco by Bedford. Sabin 25567. Miller 635. Evans 7668. Ford 104. Hildeburn 1499. Hoe Catalogue, 280. See Evans 6501, 6502. From the collection of renowned bibliophile Robert Hoe, founder and first president of the Grolier Club. Armorial bookplate of fellow bibliophile E.H. Litchfield. Bit of unidentified text tipped to front flyleaf; rear leaves with faint marginalia.
Text generally fresh and clean with minor expert repair to two leaves minimally affecting text. A fine copy with an exceptional provenance, rare complete and uncut.