Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Priestley, [February 1766]

From Joseph Priestley5

ALS (fragment):6 American Philosophical Society

[February 1766]

[First part missing] myself so much as to think I am able to [carry to completion] this large plan. I only propose to do it [if I can leave] it to you and my other friends in Lon[don readily to sup]ply my deficiencies. In the mean time I should be glad to have your sentiment of it. [Asking your pardon for] trespassing so long upon your patience [I am with the greatest res]pect, Dear Sir your most obliged humble servant

J Priestley

[Torn] contents7
[torn]ent, to

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Joseph Priestley (1733–1804), man of science and theologian, is so well known that he requires no extended biographical notice here. At this time he was a tutor at Warrington Academy. Following his custom, he visited London in the winter of 1765–66; there he met Richard Price, John Canton, William Watson, and BF and “was led to attend to the subject of experimental philosophy more than I had done before” and was encouraged to write a history of electricity. Memoirs of Dr. Joseph Priestley, to the Year 1795 (London, 1806), p. 50. His new friends promptly nominated him for election as a Fellow of the Royal Society (above, VIII, 358). His History of Electricity appeared in 1767. Nearly all the surviving correspondence with these scientists in London concerning the preparation of the book is published in Robert E. Schofield, ed., A Scientific Autobiography of Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) (Cambridge, Mass., and London, [1966]), pp. 12–49. See also DAB; DNB; Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley, LL.D., F.R.S. (2 vols., London, 1831–32). Although only a fragment of this letter remains, it was probably in this communication that Priestley told BF in some detail of his plans for a history of electricity and solicited the help of BF and other London friends. This supposition suggests a February dating.

6Only the lower right-hand segment of the last page survives. The first few words of each of the last six lines are also torn off. In an attempt to make the remainder readable, the editors have supplied in brackets what seems to be the sense, if not the precise words, lost from these lines.

7Too much of this postscript is lost to permit verbal reconstruction. Filed with this letter fragment in the Franklin Papers at APS is a scrap from another letter, possibly also by Priestley, though the handwriting and torn signature are less certainly his. It reads: “was sorry to have been out of the way [torn] called Yesterday, the inclosed have [torn] my Packet for you to which I [torn] Yours J. P. [torn] Saturday.”

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