Ben Franklin’s autobiography is the January Book of the Month

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Mémoires de la vie privée de Benjamin Franklin, écrits par lui-meme et adressés à son fils, suivis d’un précis historique de sa vie politique, et de plusieurs pièces relatives à ce père de la liberté.  Benjamin Franklin. 1791. Paris: Chez Buisson Librarie. 

Call number:  E 302.6. F7 F7 1791.  The C. Moss McLean Collection.

In 1771 Benjamin Franklin began to write his autobiography in the form of letter to his son William Franklin, then Governor of New Jersey.  The work had to be put on hold with the commencement of the War of Independence, and was resumed 13 years later.  Although a copy of the manuscript was sent to ​​M. le Viellard, a friend of Franklin’s from Passy to translate, the autobiography was translated by Dr. Jacques Ghibelline.  Shortly after Franklin’s memoirs were published in France, they were translated back into English and then published in London in 1793, and later in the United States in 1794.  The book is divided into two parts, and according to one book editor, Part II or La Table des Memoires de B. Franklin, published in London in 1790, was not written by Franklin but by one of his countrymen.

The Binghamton University Libraries’ octavo volume is quarter bound in brown leather with brown paper covered boards and leather corners.  The spine has faux banding and originally ruled in gilt.  A leather label with the stamped title once was adhered to the spine.  This rare first edition is recognizable by the pagination errors found at the end of Part II: page 203 is followed by 360, 361, 62, and then 363, the last page.

To see the book, visit Special Collections which is located on the second floor of the Glenn G. Bartle Library off of the North Reading Room.  During the Winter Intersession, Special Collections is open only by appointment, but during the spring and fall semesters, the department is open to the public 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday.