Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from a Committee of the Library Company of Philadelphia, 27 April 1772

From a Committee of the Library Company of Philadelphia

LS: American Philosophical Society; minutebook copy: Library Company of Philadelphia

Philada. April 27th 1772


By order of the Directors of the Library Co. of Philada. we have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your polite and friendly Letter of the 16th April 1771, and beg you to accept our Thanks for the good wishes therein expressed towards this institution as well as for the Services you have at many times and in different ways rendered it. An Account came to hand at the same time from which it appears that there was then due to the Company £87 18s. 6d.9 Stg. exclusive of a Balance you apprehend due to you on a Settlement, a State of which remains in America: in order to adjust this Account we have carefully examined our Papers and Minutes and under the 12th Decr. 1763 find you Sir, then a Director present, exhibiting an Account, with proper Vouchers, amounting to £18 16s. 1d. when it was Resolved “That an Order be drawn upon the Treasurer to settle said Account with Dr. Franklin, at the rate of 75 per Cent which was accordingly done.” We applied to Mr. Joseph Morris,1 then Treasurer, to see if he could assist us, from him we learn, that he paid you on the 14th. of May 1764 £32 18s.d. Currency equal to the said Sterling Debt: his Accounts were examined approved and Signed by a Committee of six Directors, of which number you was one. Notwithstanding all which the Balance you mention may be that of some later Account however, this is all the Light we are able to obtain, therefore must refer ourselves to you for farther Information.2

We have also been favoured with yours of the 5th. of June, inclosing an Invoice of Books, shipped by Mr. Strachan [Strahan], amounting to £62 8s. which was executed to Satisfaction (except as in the Account below) and arrived in good order.

The Directors agree in Sentiment with you that £300 Stg. would be thought too much to lay out for the Transactions of the several European Societies, but as the French Encyclopaedia may probably contain Extracts from the most material parts of all of them, they intend to purchase the new, improved Edition, which you will be so good as mention to Mr. Strahan, that he directly on its publication may forward it.3

Your Assistance we farther request in procuring for us the inclosed Catalogue of Books which hope to receive so soon as possible.4 By Falconer we intend a Remittance to pay for the Books now ordered. Wishing you every Happiness we remain very Respectfully Your most obedient humble Servants5

Matth Clarkson
Fras. Hopkinson
R Strettell Jones.

[In Franklin’s hand:]

Not sent. Ogilvies’ Poems £0 12s.
Potts on the Fistula 1s. 6d.
Gray on Inland Navigations6 1s.
14s. 6d.

Dr Benja Franklin

Addressed: To / Dr. Benjamin Franklin / London. / per the Mary and Eliza[beth] / Capt Sparks

Notation: Dr B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9The balance of the £150 that BF had received from the Company: above, XVIII, 69 n.

1For Morris see above, VIII, 324 n.

2BF must have mentioned in a letter, now lost, the sum that he thought was due him; he presumably concluded that it was not due, for it does not appear in his Jour. or Ledger.

3BF had suggested purchasing the transactions of all European learned societies, but on Priestley’s advice had dropped the idea; see above, XVIII, 69, 117.

4The minutebook of the Library Company contains the list of items ordered (pp. 65–9), and most of it can be reconstructed. It indicates, by comparison with 1769, a great increase in the appetite of Philadelphia readers or the wealth of the Library, or both. The identifiable items requested three years before were forty-six (above, XVI, 27–9 n), whereas the present order contained ninety-eight. Three broad categories were emphasized in both: current literature and art; politics, political theory, and law; and the Greco-Roman period, both through translations and modern works. The later list put more emphasis than the earlier on two categories: mechanics, mathematics, and the sciences; and modern history and biography. It put slightly less on travel and natural history, and almost none on the broad area of morals, religion, and philosophy, where the percentage of works was three as against seventeen in 1769. Two new categories appeared in 1772, medicine and periodicals, which constituted six and eight percent respectively. The periodicals, with one exception, were clearly not new orders; sets were being brought up to date, and they presented the reader with a choice that ranged from the high seriousness of The Christian’s Mag., or, a Treasury of Divine Knowledge … to the comparative frivolity of The Court Miscellany; or, Gentleman and Lady’s New Mag. … One other item, which stands by itself, was a complete set of the Journals of the House of Commons. BF boggled at this: the set cost too much, in his opinion, and was for reference and not for reading; he refused to buy it unless specifically instructed. To the Committee below, Aug. 22.

5The members of the committee are identified above, respectively, X, 225 n; XII, 125 n; and XVIII, 18 n.

6The books that Strahan did not send in 1771 were John Ogilvie, Poems on Several Subjects …, either the edition ordered before (XVI, 28 n) or the second edition (2 vols., London, 1769); Percivall Pott, either Remarks on the Disease Commonly Called a Fistula in Ano (2nd ed., London, 1767) or Observations on that Disorder … Commonly Called Fistula Lachrymalis (3rd ed., London, 1769); and [John Gray], Reflections on Inland Navigations … (London, 1768), dealing with the Forth and Clyde canal.

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