From Jonathan Trumbull
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Hartford 30th May 1778.
The Bearer has by our permission engaged to procure a small Font of Letters for the use of Some Printers in this State,9 and he is recommended to your direction in procuring them. As the Letters founded in France is designed for printing in the French Language, it is uncertain whether, in their Fonts, the number of each particulare Letter is proportioned for the printing of the English Language.
Your advice and direction in this affair would advance the interests of a usefull Art in America. I am, with great Esteem and Regard Sir Your most Obedient most humble Servant
Honble: Dr: Franklin
Addressed: Public Service / Honble: Doct. Benja. Franklin / Commissioner of The United States / at the Court of France / Paris / per Packet, Capt Niles / Connecticut Jonth. Trumbull
9. The bearer was Robert Niles; see Trumbull’s note to BF the day before. The printers were James Watson and Nathan Strong; letters from both are in the APS. On May 6 Watson, in New London, asked Niles to consult with BF and Deane on establishing a type foundry in America; if an operator could be persuaded to come to Connecticut with samples of the equipment needed, he would be generously paid or taken into partnership, and the Captain would also be well reimbursed for his trouble. BF docketed this letter. At some time before Niles sailed he had a second one, undated, from Watson and Strong: would he get advice in France about buying type fonts? Bring them with him if possible; otherwise entrust the purchase to whomever BF and Deane might recommend, pay for it, and bring the account back with him. An unsigned, unaddressed, and undated inquiry on the same subject is also in the APS: a Boston printer wants to know whether type can be bought in France for printing English, what the price would be, and whether good ink is also available.
Niles, as he told BF in his letter below of Aug. 6, bought the type about which Trumbull is inquiring here. It was doubtless captured with the Spy on her return voyage, which might explain why we have found no mention of Watson and Strong in histories of Connecticut printing.