Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Giambatista Beccaria, 11 August 1773

To Giambatista Beccaria6

Retranslated7 from the Italian in Giuseppe A. G. S. Eandi, Memorie istoriche intorno gli studi del padre Giambatista Beccaria … ([Turin,] 1783), pp. 149–50.

London 11 August 1773.

Dear and Reverend Sir:

I embrace this opportunity to greet you through Signor Fromond, your most ingenious fellow countryman,8 and to let you know that, because my ongoing commitment to various affairs precludes my doing further research in our favorite science, I believed that I could not better foster it among the English than by procuring a translation into our language of your latest, excellent book. This is now completed, with the help of some friends who contributed to the cost, and ready for the press.9 May I ask you to have five hundred copies of the illustrations reproduced from your copper [plates] and sent to me to be used for the projected edition? They might come by sea from Nice, and be addressed to your Envoy Extraordinary, who will be good enough to permit it.1 I will promptly pay, according to your direction, any charges for paper, printing, shipping, etc. If this can be done, it will save us the expense of engraving. I remain always with the greatest esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient [and] most humble servant,

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6For the distinguished professor of physics at Turin see above, V, 395 n and subsequent volumes.

7We are indebted to Robert Lopez, Sterling Professor of History at Yale, for assistance in our retranslation. It differs slightly in wording but not in substance from that in Smyth, Writings, VI, 112.

8Gian Francesco Fromond was a young Lombard scientist who had been visiting England as part of a European tour. Father Boscovich is said to have introduced him to BF, and this letter in turn introduced him to Beccaria. Fromond was subsequently put in charge of the Lombard physics laboratories. Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (APS Memoirs, XLVII; Philadelphia, 1958), p. 36.

9BF had put the translation of Beccaria’s Elettricismo artificiale … [Turin, 1772] into the hands of Jean-Louis de Lolme (1741–1804), a Genevan who had been forced into exile in England in 1768, and who became well known in political circles through his Constitution de l’Angleterre … (Amsterdam, 1771). He had to support himself by his pen. In April, August, and October of 1773 BF paid him a total of £57 15s. for the translation, money collected by John Nourse, the bookseller who was publishing the volume, from the friends BF mentions. De Lolme later spoke of having visited BF in Craven Street some months before the latter’s departure for America. Jour., pp. 47, 50–2; The Constitution of England … (4th ed., London, 1784), p. 525 n.

1The engravings from Elettricismo artificiale were consigned to Filippo Ottone Ponte, Count of Scarnifiggi, an old pupil of Beccaria at Turin and later, as Sardinian Minister to Paris after 1777, a close observer of BF’s mission. The Royal Kalendar … (London, 1772), p. 100; Pace, op. cit., chap. V, passim. Scarnifiggi had left London by the time the engravings arrived (BF to Beccaria below, March 20, 1774), but his successor must have delivered them, for they were duly used in the English edition: A Treatise upon Artificial Electricity … (London, 1776). The volume was not published until the autumn of that year: Public Advertiser, Oct. 23, 1776.

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