To William Strahan
ALS: New York Public Library; copy: Library of Congress
Passy, Dec. 4. 1781
Not remembring precisely the Address of Mrs Strange, I beg leave to request you would forward the Enclos’d to her, which I receiv’d under my Cover from America.3
I formerly sent you from Philadelphia part of an Edition of Tully on Old Age, to be sold in London; and you put the Books, if I remember right, into the Hands of Mr Becket for that purpose. Probably he may have some of them still in his Warehouse, as I never had an Account of their being sold. I shall be much oblig’d by your procuring and sending me one of them.4
A strong Emulation exists at present between Paris and Madrid, with regard to beautiful Printing. Here a M. Didot l’ainé5 has a Passion for the Art, & besides having procured the best Types, he has much improv’d the Press. The utmost Care is taken of his Press-work; his Ink is black, & his Paper fine and white. He has executed several charming Editions. But the Salust & the Don Quixote of Madrid are thought to excel them.6 Didot however improves every day, and, by his Zeal & indefatigable Application, bids fair to carry the Art to a high Pitch of Perfection. I will send you a Sample of his Work, when I have an Opportunity.
I am glad to hear that you have married your Daughter happily,7 and that your Prosperity continues. I hope it may never meet with any Interruption, having still, tho’ at present divided by public Circumstances, a Remembrance of our ancient private Friendship.
Please to present my affectionate Respects to Mrs. Strahan, and my Love to your Children.
With great Esteem & Regard, I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant
Wm. Strahan Esqr
Addressed: To / Wm Strahan, Esqr / M.Pt. / London.
3. The letters were forwarded by James Hunter, Jr., in August: XXXV, 394. Isabella Strange was a cousin of Hunter’s wife, and BF continued to act as a conduit for their correspondence for the duration of the war.
4. In 1763 BF had sent Strahan 300 copies of his 1744 edition of M[arcus] T[ullius] Cicero’s Cato Major, or his Discourse of Old-Age, translated by James Logan; these were turned over to bookseller Thomas Becket of Tully’s Head in the Strand: II, 404; IX, 274n; X, 261. This work is generally considered BF’s finest piece of printing, and we suspect he wanted to show it to Didot, whom he mentions below. See C. William Miller, Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Printing (Philadelphia, 1974), pp. 180–3.
5. François-Ambroise Didot (1730–1804).
6. BF had received the Sallust in 1775 as a gift from Don Gabriel Antonio, son of Charles III: XXII, 61–2, 298–9. He had purchased the Don Quixote only recently; see the “Liste des Livres de Mr. Franklin,” under Dec. 31.
7. BF had already congratulated Strahan on Margaret’s marriage: XXXI, 404.