Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Giambatista Beccaria, [1757]

From Giambatista Beccaria

Translation of extract (?) in Franklin’s hand: Yale University Library; extract (?) in Italian: American Philosophical Society; also copies of extract and translation: Yale University Library7


Father Beccaria thanks Mr. Franklin for his kind Remembrance; should have had a most singular Pleasure in seeing him at Turin, which he had been made to hope by his Letter to Mr. Haldiman:9 If he had known of his being in Europe, [he would have addressed his 16 Letters on Electricity to him rather than to anyone else].1 They come out in January, and he shall be very glad to present them to him in Turin, where he would be ready to serve him with all his Attention to the utmost of his Power. In those Letters the Theory of M. Franklin, or rather that of Nature, is more fully demonstrated, and some of them contain some new Discoveries in that Branch [of Natural Philosophy].2

[Among surviving Franklin papers there are several which cannot be dated even from a specific year but which appear to belong to the time of his English residence as Pennsylvania agent. In some instances they seem to date from the first period of that residence (1757–62), in others from the second (1764–75), and in some they may date from either period. Occasionally there is evidence to show that a document must have been written during a limited part of one of these periods. In accordance with the principles of arrangement stated in the Introduction (above, I, XXXVI), the eleven undatable items which the editors believe belong to the first period of residence in England as agent (or a part of it), or to either period indifferently, are placed here following the more precisely dated documents of 1757. Others will be printed after those dated 1764. For each document the probable inclusive dates are given in brackets at the top.]

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7What appears to be an extract of the original MS is pasted into BF’s copy of Beccaria’s Dell’ elettricismo: lettere (Bologna, 1758) in APS. The title page of the book bears the notation in BF’s hand “B Franklin’s Sent him by the Author 1760.” A translation of the pasted note in BF’s hand is in the Stiles Papers, Yale Univ. Lib., and in the same collection are also copies in Stiles’s hand of both the extract and the translation. BF’s English version, corrected as indicated below, rather than the Italian text, is printed here, both to make it understandable to a larger number of prospective readers and also to show what BF thought Beccaria had written him.

8This letter must have been written in the latter part of 1757 because of Beccaria’s statement that his letters would “come out in January.” The volume was published in 1758.

9Probably Jean Abraham Haldimand, a Swiss-born banker in Turin, brother of Lieut. Col. Frederick Haldimand of the Royal American Regiment. No correspondence between BF and either brother has been found.

1The original Italian of the bracketed words is: “avrebbe diretto a lui 16 sue Lettere intorno l’Elettricità, anzi che ad altri.” BF translated this as: “he should have sent his 16 Letters on Electricity to him as well as to others.” The correction inserted in brackets above is supplied from Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (Phila., 1958), p. 54. Beccaria addressed the volume to Giacomo Bartolomeo Beccari of Bologna.

2The Italian text ends with “alcuna scoperta di tal genere.” A possible second leaf of the Italian text, not now surviving, may have continued the sentence with the words corresponding to BF’s three here bracketed, or BF may simply have added them for clarity.

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