Poor Richard Improved


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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 1749. Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by B. Franklin and D. Hall, [1748]. 12mo, later side stitching; pp.36. Housed in custom chemise and clamshell box.

Rare complete first edition of Franklin’s famed “Poor Richard’s Almanack” for the year 1749, (complete copies are very scarce), illustrated with the well-known woodcut of anatomical man “govern’d by the twelve constellations” and woodcut headpieces for the twelve months, and prefaced by John Bartram’s practical “Essay for the Improvement of Estates, by Raising a Durable Timber for Fences.”

Poor Richard had no rival in popularity among the publications of the American colonies” (Van Wyck Brooks), and has been valued “for more than two hundred years as an American classic. Since the first number appeared in 1733 Americans have delighted in the wise and witty sayings of Poor Richard, learned to recognize them as Franklin’s, and been able to quote them on appropriate occasions. They have done this whether or not they ever read Poor Richard in one of his many editions, much less seen a tattered copy of one of the original pamphlets, for his wisdom has been conveyed among men and across generations as much by word of mouth as by print… Poor Richard’s Almanacks were pored over, worn out, and thrown away. Today a complete, reasonably clean copy is hard to find” (Whitfield Bell). In his autobiography, Franklin characterized his almanac as “a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who bought scarcely any other books; I therefore filled all the little spaces that occurr’d between the remarkable days in the calendar with proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue; it being more difficult for a man in want, to act always honestly, as, to use here one of those proverbs, it is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.” “This [1749 almanac] is the first of the Poor Richards for which David Hall had the full printing responsibility as Benjamin Franklin’s new partner and now active head of the shop.” 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 authorship role of the almanacs continued, along with the opportune supervision of their printing. The prefatory essay is John Bartram’s “Raising a Durable Timber for Fences,” in which he recommends red cedar, especially for its “quick growth from seed, the little sap, and its much durable heart.” Bartram was urged by Franklin to write a natural history of the New World. In 1764, Bartram remarked in a letter that he had “in thirty years’ travels, acquired a perfect knowledge of most, if not all the vegetables between New England and Georgia, and from the sea-coast to Lake Ontario and Erie.” His “Natural History” never came to fruition. Miller 441. Ford 73. Curtis, 99. Hildeburn 1093. Evans 6139. Remnants of signatures and annotations of John Humphrey on the title page, and of David and Ellin Humphrey on the interior pages.

Text with light expert reinforcement to fragile and somewhat edge-worn leaves (affecting a letter or two) and horizontal tear to two leaves; last leaf with loss to one corner, extremely fragile as always. Nevertheless, complete and very scarce, protected in a handsome clamshell box.

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