Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Edward Rowe Mores, 7 June 1773

From Edward Rowe Mores3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Leyton, Essex. 7 June. 1773.


Mrs. James is so teazing that I am constrained to apply to you for relief. I could write a volume of grievances; but as our time is not to be bestowed upon trifles I shall trouble you with no more than two.

The first is, Mrs. James before I was concerned in the foundery employed a printer because he owed her money, and now she is desirous that I should get rid of him, which I cannot attempt to do as he was not employed by me, and his behaviour has been such as I cannot object to. But I cannot approve of his workmanship, which, in Mrs. James’s case more especially, should be performed with the greatest nicety. I enclose a bit for your judgement, and if you are pleased to tell me that it will do I will correct it and send him more copy.

The second, Sir, I mention with reluctance, fearful lest it should transpire and obstruct my scheme, but I trust I am writing to a gentleman who will keep my secret. I am desirous, and have reason to think my desire will be gratified, that Her Majesty of Russia should purchase the foundery. So the foundery will be preserved entire, Mrs. James obtain a better price for it than she can obtain in England and our own people be pleased that it is gone out of the kingdom.4 And Mrs. James is angry that I will not disclose to her my design.

The only use I entreat you, Dear Sir, to make of this information is, to Mrs. James (if that I say shall merit your approbation) that I have communicated my design to you, and that you approve of it, to me (if you do not approve of it) that you will be kind enough to tell me so, who am, Sir, your obedient humble servant

Edward Rowe Mores.

Addressed: To / Dr Franklyn.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3An eccentric antiquary (1730–78), who had built himself a bizarre house on the French model and was beginning, at about the time of this letter, a book on the history of type-founding. DNB.

4Mrs. James was the widow of the famous type-founder, John James, for whom see above, XVIII, 87 n. We offer no conjecture about “our own people” or why they should be pleased to have the foundry go overseas; the better price for it was probably because the domestic value of James’s type, some of which dated from the fifteenth century, was decreasing as Caslon’s founts became more popular. After James’s death in 1772 Mores is said to have bought much of the type, presumably when it was auctioned in December, 1773, and to have acquired thereby a proprietary interest in the business. Talbot B. Reed, A History of the Old English Letter Foundries … (new ed., A. F. Johnson, ed.; London, [1952]), p. 215; Mores, A Dissertation upon English Typographical Founders and Founderies … (Harry Carter and Christopher Ricks, eds.; Oxford Bibliographical Soc. Pub., new ser., IX, Oxford, 1961), p. lxi. This letter suggests, however, that Mores had such an interest-managerial or financial or both-before his purchase; otherwise he would not have been judging a printer, or hoping to keep the collection entire by selling it to Catherine the Great. When the hope was disappointed and the stock auctioned, Mores was not the only buyer. BF also acquired some; see his letters below to Baskerville, Sept. 21, 1773, and to Bache, Feb. 17, 1774.

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