“A DISTINCTLY AMERICAN CHARACTER OF PUBLIC SERVICE FOR THE AMERICAN PRESS”: RARE FRANKLIN AND HALL IMPRINT, FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF THE QUAKER LIBERTY OF THE SPIRIT, 1759
(FRANKLIN, Benjamin, printer) RUTTY, John. The Liberty of the Spirit and of the Flesh Distinguished: In an Address to those Captives in Spirit among the People called Quakers, who are commonly called Libertines. Dublin, Printed: Philadelphia Reprinted by: B. Franklin, and D. Hall, 1759. Slim octavo (4-3/4 by 7-1/4 inches), original brown front paper wrapper with spine and rear wrapper renewed, early stitching; pp. [1-2], 3-19, , 21-53, , 55-64. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $3500.
First American edition of Quaker John Rutty’s work on spiritual and civic values, printed in Philadelphia by the firm of Benjamin Franklin and David Hall in 1759, with rarely found original front paper wrapper.
Dublin Quaker physician John Rutty “wrote many medical and religious books” (Campbell, 145), including Liberty of the Spirit, which he authored “to bring into view the degeneracy from the simplicity of their forefathers which was then spreading amongst the Friends” (The Friend Vol. XI: 46). This scarce first American edition of Liberty of the Spirit was printed by the firm of Benjamin Franklin and David Hall when, “in 1759 the Society of Friends in Philadelphia ordered the publication of this piece in an edition of 4000 copies, and… directed that the treatise be distributed in the same proportion as the 1759 Yearly Epistle, i.e., 1000 to stay in Philadelphia, 2000 to be divided among the quarterly meetings in the Provinces of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and most of the remainder to go to Meetings” elsewhere in America (Miller 719).
“Of all those who plied the early American printing trade, Franklin was the most renowned and successful.” His views on civic responsibility and republicanism informed both his printing operations and a strong belief in freedom of the press. Franklin sought similar convictions in his associates, including the Scottish-born David Hall, who began as an apprentice to Franklin in 1743 before the two became partners in 1748. With this partnership of 18 years, Franklin and Hall “helped establish a distinctly American character of public service for the American press” ((Frasca, Benjamin Franklin’s Printing Network, 2, 220). While Franklin, after 1748, was no longer involved in the routine operations of his and Hall’s busy printing concern, the historical record, Franklin scholarship and bibliographic authorities clearly note that his over-arching role continued in many instances, especially in ordering type for the firm, which “was a responsibility Franklin had assumed from the outset of the partnership” (Miller, xxix). Not long before their firm issued this first American edition of Liberty of the Spirit, printed in Caslon type, Franklin, newly arrived in London in 1757, “dealt directly with the Caslon foundry” for castings of the type. Preceded by the first edition published in Dublin in 1756. Without rear wrapper. Sabin 74499. Hildeburn 1642. Miller 719. Evans 8486. Bookplate of “George Smith, M.D. Upper Darby,” likely belonging to the 19th-century Quaker physician who also served in the Pennsylvania State Senate and as an Associate Judge of the court of Common Pleas of Delaware County.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, faint occasional marginal dampstaining, expert restoration to front wrapper and early leaves. A very good copy of this rare Franklin and Hall imprint.