Benjamin Franklin Papers

Note on the Fourth and Fifth Editions of Experiments and Observations, [9 September 1774]

Note on the Fourth and Fifth Editions of Experiments and Observations

Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America, by Benjamin Franklin, L.L.D. and F.R.S. To Which Are Added, Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The Whole Corrected, Methodized, Improved, and Now First Collected into One Volume, and Illustrated with Copper Plates. (London, 1769.)

Experiments and Observations on Electricity, Made at Philadelphia in America, by Benjamin Franklin, L.L.D. and F.R.S. Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, of the Royal Society at Göttingen, and of the Batavian Society in Holland, and President of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia. To Which Are Added, Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The Whole Corrected, Methodized, Improved, and Now Collected into One Volume, and Illustrated with Copper Plates. The Fifth Edition. (London, 1774.)

Our predecessors announced early in this series their intention of discussing each edition in its chronological place.2 They did discuss the three parts of the first edition3 but not the second or third, no doubt because the differences were minimal. We neglected to fulfill their promise by pointing out the numerous new documents that were added to the fourth edition, as we should have done under its publication date of December 5, 1768,4 and therefore list them here in a single note on it and the final edition.

The additions introduced in 1768 more than tripled the length of the volume, which grew from 154 pages in the third edition to 496 in the fourth. Franklin had intended to revise and amplify this material, but could not find the time and eventually let it be published in its original form.5 “There are not many philosophical writers … who can suffer so little,” a reviewer commented, “by appearing in an undress before the public. …”6 The letters and papers that first appeared in undress are noted below, together with their locations in the volume and in the present edition.7

Letter I. To Peter Collinson, March 28, 1747 (extract), pp. [1]–2. [Above, III, 118–19.]

Guillaume Mazéas to Stephen Hales, May 20, 1752, pp. 106–7. [Above, IV, 315–17.]

William Watson to the Royal Society, December 20, 1752, pp. 108–10. [Above, IV, 390–2.]

Electrical Experiments, March 14, 1755, pp. 155–60. [Above, V, 516–19.]

To Mon. Dalibard, June 29, 1755 (extract), pp. 161–4. [Above, VI, 98–101.]

Letter XIII. To Peter Collinson, November 23, 1753, p. 165. [Above, V, 115–16.]

From James Bowdoin, December 21, 1751 (extract), pp. 166–72. [Above, IV, 216–21.]

Letter XIV. To James Bowdoin, January 24, 1752, pp. 173–7. [Above, IV, 256–9.]

Letter XV. From James Bowdoin, March 2, 1752 (extract), pp. 178–81. [Above, IV, 269–72.]

Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures, and Suppositions, [1751?], pp. 182–92. [Above, IV, 235–43.]

Letter XVI. From John Perkins, August 3, 1752, pp. 193–4. [Above, IV, 336–8.]

Letter XVII. To John Perkins, August 13, 1752, pp. 195–6. [Above, IV, 340–1.]

Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c., 1751, pp. 197–206. [Above, IV, 227–34.]

Letter XVIII. From John Perkins, October 16, 1752 (extract), 207–9. [Above, IV, 359–60.]

Letter XIX. From John Perkins, October 23, 1752, pp. 209–15. [Above, IV, 369–73.]

Letter XX. To John Perkins, February 4, 1753, pp. 216–33. [Above, IV, 429–42.]

Letter XXI. From William Mercer, November 11, 1752, pp. 234–5. [Above, IV, 378–9.]

Letter XXII. From John Perkins, May 14, 1753, pp. 236–7. [Above, IV, 488–9.]

John Perkins: Causes of Water Spouts, [1753?], pp. 238–46. [Above, IV, 489–95.]

Jonathan Todd to Jared Eliot, March 6, 1753 (extract), pp. 247–50. [Above, IV, 452–4.]

To Jared Eliot, May 3, 1753 (extract), pp. 251–4. [Above, IV, 472–4.]

Cadwallader Colden’s observations enclosed in his letter to Franklin, November 29, 1753, pp. 254–8. [Above, V, 124–6.]

Franklin’s answer enclosed in his letter to Colden, December 6, 1753, pp. 258–61. [Above, V, 145–7.]

Letter XXIII. To Cadwallader Colden, April 23, 1752, pp. 262–7. [Above, IV, 297–301.]

William Dampier: Accounts of Water Spouts, pp. 268–72. [Above, IV, 442–5.]

From James Bowdoin, November 12, 1753 (extract), pp. 273–6. [Above, V, 113–15.]

From Cadwallader Colden, April 2, 1754, pp. 276–9. [Above, V, 256–8.]

From James Alexander, [1753?], pp. 280–1. [Above, V, 178–9.]

To James Alexander, [1753?], pp. 282–3. [Above, V, 179–80.]

An Account of the New-Invented Fire-Places, [1744], pp. 284–318. [Above, II, 421–45.]

Letter XXIV. To John Lining, March 18, 1755, pp. 319–28. [Above, V, 521–7.]

Letter XXV. From Richard Jackson, [June 17, 1755], pp. 329–41. [Above, VI, 75–82.]

Letter XXVI. To John Lining, April 14, 1757 (extract), pp. 341–9. [Above, VII, 184–9.]

Letter XXVII. To Peter Collinson, [1752?], pp. 350–4. [Above, IV, 393–6, 397.]

Letter XXVIII. To Peter Collinson, [1752?], pp. 354–6. [Above, IV, 399–400, 401.]

Letter XXIX. To Peter Collinson, August 25, 1755, pp. 356–9. [Above, VI, 167–8.]

Letter XXX. To John Pringle, December 21, 1757, pp. 359–61. [Above, VII, 298–300.]

Letter XXXI. To John Pringle, January 6, 1758, p. 362. [Above, VII, 357.]

Letter XXXII. To John Lining, June 17, 1758, pp. 363–8. [Above, VIII, 108–12.]

Letter XXXIII. To James Bowdoin, December 2, 1758, pp. 369–74. [Above, VIII, 195–8.]

Letter XXXIV. To William Heberden, June 7, 1759 (extract), pp. 375–8. [Above, VIII, 394–6.]

Letter XXXV. To Peter Franklin, May 7, 1760, pp. 379–80. [Above, IX, 106–7.]

Letter XXXVI. To Alexander Small, May 12, 1760, pp. 381–3. [Above, IX, 110–12.]

Letter XXXVII. From Ebenezer Kinnersley, March 12, 1761, pp. 384–97. [Above, IX, 282–93.]

Letter XXXVIII. To Ebenezer Kinnersley, February 20, 1762, pp. 397–417 of first pagination.8 [Above, X, 37–53.]

Letters XXXIX and XL. Accounts from Carolina, November 1 and August 28, 1760, pp. 416–25 of second pagination. [Above, X, 53–9.]

Letter XLI. Experiments on Amber, July 3, 1762, pp. 425–7. [Above, X, 111–12.]

Letter XLII. To Giambatista Beccaria, July 13, 1762, pp. 427–33. [Above, X, 126–30.]

Letter XLIII. From John Winthrop, September 29, 1762, p. 434. [Above, X, 150.]

Letter XLIV. To [Oliver Neave], July 20, 1762, pp. 435–7. [Above, X, 130–2.]

Letter XLV. To John Pringle, December 1, 1762, pp. 438–40. [Above, X, 158–60.]

Letter XLVI. From [Alexander Small, c. 1764], pp. 440–1. [Above, XI, 544–5.]

Letter XLVII. To Peter Franklin, [1762?–1764], pp. 441–3. [Above, X, 183–4.]

Letter XLVIII. To Mary Stevenson, May 17, 1760, pp. 444–5. [Above, IX, 117.]

Letter XLIX. To Mary Stevenson, June 11, 1760, pp. 445–8. [Above, IX, 119–22.]

Letter L. To Mary Stevenson, September 13, 1760, pp. 449–56. [Above, IX, 212–17.]

Letter LI. To Mary Stevenson, March 30, 1761 (extract), pp. 456–8. [Above, IX, 296–7.]

Letter LII. To Mary Stevenson, August 10, 1761 (extract), pp. 458–60. [Above, IX, 338–9.]

Letter LIII. To Mary Stevenson, March 22, 1762 (extract), pp. 460–1. [Above, X, 67.]

Letter LIV. To Mary Stevenson, [1759] (extract), pp. 461–3. [Above, VIII, 455–7.]

Letter LV. To O[liver] N[eave, before 1769], pp. 463–6 of first and 467–8 of second pagination.9 [Above, XV, 295–8.]

Letter LVI. To Mary Stevenson, [November? 1760], pp. 469–72 of first, and 465–6 of second pagination. [Above, IX, 247–52.]

Letter LVII. To Lord Kames, June 2, 1765 (extract), pp. 467–72 of second pagination. [Above, XII, 162–4.]

Letter LVI [i.e., LVIII]. To Peter Franklin, [before 1765], pp. 473–8 of second pagination. [Above, XI, 539–43.]

Letter LIX. Of Lightning, and the Method (Now Used in America) of Securing Buildings and Persons from Its Mischievous Effects, September, 1767, pp. 479–85. [Above, XIV, 261–4.]

Letter LX. From John Winthrop, January 6, 1768 (extract), p. 485. [Above, XV, 14.]

To John Winthrop, July 2, 1768 (extract), pp. 486–92. [Above, XV, 168–71.]

Letter LXI. To John Pringle, May 10, 1768, pp. 492–6. [Above, XV, 115–18.]

The differences between the fourth and fifth editions were minimal. Two footnotes were added to the latter,10 but the only new document was Dalibard’s report of his experiment with lightning in 1752; this was reprinted, with insignificant changes, in the shortened form in which it had appeared in 1773 in Dubourg’s Œuvres de M. Franklin.1 The Public Advertiser of September 9, 1774, announced the publication of this final edition of Experiments and Observations.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Above, III, 116.

3Above, IV, 125–8, 458, 461; V, 432, 435. For a thorough analysis of all the five editions see I. Bernard Cohen, ed., Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments … (Cambridge, Mass., 1941), pp. 141–4, 158–9.

4The imprint date, which we use in referring to this edition, was 1769; see above, XIII, 288 n.

5As explained in a footnote in the volume. The note is printed above, V, 116 n.

6Monthly Rev., XLII (1770), p. 200. For the full review see pp. 199–210, 298–308.

7The only letter in earlier editions that was omitted in the fourth and fifth is noted above, IV, 376 n.

8Two sets of pages are numbered 416–17.

9Two sets of pages are numbered 465–72.

1010. One, on p. 169, is printed above, VI, 99 n. The other, on p. 98, was omitted when BF’s answers were printed above, IV, 202–5; it explains the “very curious Experiment” mentioned in the final sentence: “The experiment here mentioned was thus made. An empty phial was stopped with a cork. Through the cork passed a thick wire, as usual in the Leyden experiment, which wire almost reached the bottom: Through another part of the cork passed one leg of a small glass syphon, the other leg on the outside came down almost to the bottom of the phial. This phial was first held a short time in the hand, which warming, and of course rarifying the air within, drove a small part of it out through the syphon. Then a little red ink in a tea-spoon was applied to the opening of the outer leg of the syphon; so that as the air within cooled, a little of the ink might rise in that leg. When the air within the bottle came to be of the same temperature of that without, the drop of red ink would rest in a certain part of the leg. But the warmth of a finger applied to the phial would cause that drop to descend, as the least outward coolness applied would make it ascend. When it had found its situation, and was at rest, the wire was electrified by a communication from the prime conductor. This was supposed to give an electric atmosphere to the wire within the bottle, which might likewise rarify the included air, and of course depress the drop of ink in the syphon. But no such effect followed.”

1The document appears on pp. 108–13; it is reprinted above in extenso, IV, 303–10, where the notes indicate Dubourg’s excisions.

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