"THE BODY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PRINTER, LIKE THE COVERING OF AN OLD BOOK… LIES HERE, FOOD FOR WORMS…": THE FIRST PRINTING OF FRANKLIN'S HUMOROUS EPITAPH
(FRANKLIN, Benjamin) AMES, Nathaniel. An Astronomical Diary; or, Almanack, for the Year of Our Lord Christ 1771. Boston: Printed and Sold by the Printers and Booksellers, (1770). 12mo, stitched as issued (stitching renewed), uncut; pp. . $1950.
Ames' 1771 Almanack, containing the first known printing of "the most famous of American epitaphs" (Mark Van Doren).
Ames' almanac contains, on page 4, the first known appearance in print of Ben Franklin's humorous epitaph of himself: "The Body of Benjamin Franklin, Printer, Like the covering of an Old Book, Its Contents Torn out, and Stript of its Lettering and Gilding, Lies here, Food for Worms…" It is not known when Franklin wrote this doggerel or why he did not print it himself. He did occasionally give handwritten copies to his friends and relatives, the earliest dating circa 1760. Ames took the text from a manuscript copy in the possession of Jane Mecom, Franklin's sister, who also lived in Boston. His almanacs are considered, along with Franklin's Poor Richard, the best ever produced in America (New Colophon , 23). In his will, Franklin did identify himself as a printer, but only his name and that of his wife Deborah are on their tomb. Evans 11548. Sabin 1309. Library blindstamp in upper corner of title page.
A bit of toning and occasional spotting. An exceptionally good copy of this scarce early almanac.