Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Winthrop, 17 November 1761

From John Winthrop

Draft:2 American Philosophical Society

Cambridge 17 9br 1761

Dr. Franklin, Sir

I received your favor of 20 Feb. and 8 April last, the former inclosing Dr. Pringles paper on an extraordinary meteor, and the later Mr. Kennicotts papers relating to the Hebrew Bible.3 I am infinitely[?] obliged to you for introducing me to so valuable acquaintance as Dr. Pringle, several of whose curious papers I perused in the Phil. Trans. and whose correspondence I shall highly esteem; and agreeable to a hint you have given me, have enclosed a letter directed to him, which I beg you’d be so good as to send him.

I’m sorry we are not able to contribute towards Mr. Kennicott’s design of revising the edition of the Hebrew Bible; but as you readily judge, new Countries are not the most likely places to look for ancient MSS in. I have, however, thoroughly searched our College Library with this view; and find several editions which I am sensible can be of no service in the affair; but not so much as 1 MS. I couldn’t tell what better to do in the next place than to consult our old Rabbi Mr. Monis.4 All the information I can get from him is, that MSS of the whole Old Testament are very rare; MSS of the Pentateuch are common in every Synagogue; tho he couldn’t certainly inform me of any in America. Most of those copies I presume must be modern, and so of little Authority. [illegible] moreover the book of Esther.5

Give me leave now sir to congratulate you on the honorary distinctions conferred on you at home;6 which if I may be allowed to express my sentiments and those of my acquaintance are but just acknowledgements of your merit. I hope, you are pursuing your philosophical inquiries with the same happy success as formerly: and shall look upon your correspondence as a great obligation, when you can find leisure to favor me with it. And if it shall be in my power to render you or any of your learned Friends the least service in this part of the world, I shall do it with the utmost pleasure, being with great esteem Sir, etc.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Winthrop wrote this and drafts of letters to Jonathan Belcher and John Pringle on the empty pages of BF’s letter of April 8, 1761. Parts of the draft are interlined or overwritten to the point of virtual illegibility, and he used abbreviations and contractions which are almost unrecognizable to the reader (e.g., “pr” for “paper,” and “svl” for “several”). The editors have used their best efforts to decipher his words and to place them in the correct order, but confess that they cannot guarantee the results in every instance.

3The letter of February 20 not found; for that of April 8 and footnotes on the papers by Pringle and Kennicott, see above, pp. 300–1.

4Judah Monis (1683–1764), Hebrew scholar, educator, was born either in Italy or Algiers and educated in Jewish schools at Leghorn and Amsterdam. Migrating to Jamaica, Long Island, and then to New York City, he was described as a merchant but probably also served as rabbi in both places. He moved to Boston in 1720 and presented the draft of a Hebrew grammar to the Harvard Corporation. He was publicly baptized in 1722 and was a professing Christian during the rest of his life. Harvard appointed him instructor in Hebrew in 1722 and gave him the M.A. degree the next year, and he continued to teach there until his retirement in 1760. His Hebrew grammar, the first in America, was published in 1735. DAB; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, VII, 639–46.

5Because of cancellations and interlineations in the MS it is impossible to determine Winthrop’s intended placing of these words.

6Probably a reference to BF’s honorary doctorate at the University of St. Andrews and his admission to freemanship in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St. Andrews; see above, VIII, 277–80, 434–5, 436, 439. The words “at home” were often used by colonials, even as late as this, with reference to Great Britain.

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