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About the Papers of Benjamin Franklin

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin is a collaborative undertaking by a team of scholars at Yale University to collect, edit, and publish a comprehensive, annotated edition of Franklin’s writings and papers: everything he wrote and almost everything he received. In a life spanning from 1706 to 1790, Franklin explored nearly every aspect of his world, and he corresponded with an astonishing range of men and women of all social classes and professions in America, Great Britain, and Europe. His collected papers present a panoramic view of the eighteenth century, in addition to an unprecedented view into Franklin’s thoughts and activities reflecting his ever-curious and inventive mind.

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin was established in 1954 under the joint auspices of Yale University and the American Philosophical Society. It is housed in Yale’s Franklin Collection, the world’s finest collection of printed, manuscript, and visual materials dedicated to the study of Franklin and his times, which was assembled by Yale alumnus William Smith Mason. Launched with a generous gift from Henry Luce in the name of Life Magazine, the project has been sustained by numerous grants from individuals; private foundations, including the Packard Humanities Institute, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Florence Gould Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Cinco Hermanos Fund; and two federal agencies, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Forty volumes have been published to date, bringing the edition to September, 1783, when Franklin and his colleagues signed the Treaty of Paris that ended the American Revolution and established the United States of America. The entire edition is projected to reach 47 volumes and will encompass approximately 30,000 extant papers.

A Digital Franklin Papers edition has been freely available on the web since 2006, sponsored by the Packard Humanities Institute, at www.franklinpapers.org. This database contains texts of all documents that have been published (current through volume 37), and preliminary transcriptions of all texts that will appear in future volumes, through the end of Franklin’s life. In addition, the database includes transcriptions of the documents that were not printed in full, translations of many of the French texts, a biographical dictionary of all Franklin’s correspondents, and an introduction written for the digital edition by Edmund S. Morgan.

A preliminary cumulative index to the published volumes is available on the project’s website. Please visit that website for more information on the project, links to order volumes, and information on Yale’s Franklin Collection.


The letterpress edition of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin is available from Yale University Press.

Copyright © by the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge and by Yale University.