THE "FIRST GREAT AMERICAN": FIRST COLLECTED EDITION OF FRANKLIN'S COMPLETE WORKS, WITH ENGRAVED PORTRAIT AND PLATES
FRANKLIN, Benjamin. The Complete Works, in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals… With Memoirs of His Early Life, Written by Himself. London: J. Johnson, and Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1806. Three volumes. Octavo, contemporary full mottled brown calf rebacked, red morocco spine labels. $4500.
First collected edition of Franklin's Complete Works, including his autobiography, "Way to Wealth," numerous political writings including "Causes of the American Discontents before 1768" and works on the Stamp Act, and adding for the first time his scientific writings, with an engraved frontispiece portrait, engraved vignette title pages, 13 plates (nine folding, one double-page) and a folding map of the Gulf Stream.
Hailed as the "first great American" by historian Frederick Jackson Turner, America's "first philosopher" by David Hume and "one of the most sensible men that ever lived" by Emerson, Benjamin Franklin "held true to a fundamental ideal with unwavering and at times heroic fortitude: a faith in the wisdom of the common citizen" (Isaacson, 478-93). This handsome 1806 edition of Franklin's Complete Works, published within two decades of his death, offers rich evidence of the pragmatic brilliance in the words of this Founding Father who was described as "a great genius" even by his adversary John Adams. Featured in these three volumes is a re-translation of Franklin's famed autobiography (first published in French in 1791), "the most widely read of all American autobiographies," joined by a continuation of his life by Stuber and extracts from his will (Grolier American 100:21). Also included are his "Letters and Papers on Electricity" and numerous scientific essays, key political writings such as his "Causes of the American Discontents before 1768," works on the Stamp Act that include a transcript of his 1766 examination before the House of Commons, "The Way to Wealth," his essay on "The Slave Trade," and extensive correspondence. A collected Works was first published in France (1791), Germany (1792), and Sweden (1792); the first edition in English was published in London in 1793, but that often-reprinted edition included chiefly the popular and political writings, not the scientific papers (see Ford 437). This 1806 edition was edited by "Mr. Marshall… [who] used much diligence in searching for essays and papers, that had not before been comprised in any collection" (Ford 550). Engraved frontispiece portrait in Volume I; each volume with letterpress and engraved vignette title pages. Bound without publisher's advertisement leaf. See Howes F323; Sabin 25600; Ford 464.
Faint dampstain to upper corner of Volume I text block, a few plates with expert cleaning, expert restoration to extremities of contemporary calf bindings. A very good copy.