Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Lorenzo Manini: Résumé, 9 October 1783

From Lorenzo Manini1

ALS: American Philosophical Society

⟨Cremona, October 9, 1783, in Italian: The illustrious name of Doctor Franklin is venerated and held in the highest esteem throughout Italy and especially in Lombardy. In testimony of this admiration, I have dedicated to you a fine work I just printed, the Lettere Americane by the famous President Carli.2 I humbly submit to you by post two copies of this book and beg you to accept them as a sincere tribute.3

1Prominent bookseller, printer, and freemason in Cremona (c. 1757–1821): Alice Pizzocaro, “Lorenzo Manini: Libraio e stampatore a Cremona fra Ancien Régime ed età Napoleonica,” Storia in Lombardia, XII (1993), 5–6, 16–17, 36.

2Le Lettere americane (3 vols., Cremona, 1781–83) was published anonymously by Count Gian Rinaldo Carli (1720–1795), a versatile scholar who also served as president of the Supremo consiglio di economica in Milan: Dizionario biografico degli Italiani (73 vols. to date, Rome, 1960–). The work was intended to refute Cornelius de Pauw’s and Buffon’s notions of American degeneracy. The first volume, published in 1781, opened with an undated dedicatory letter addressed to BF by Isidoro Bianchi, a professor of ethics at Cremona. Bianchi praised the unnamed author as the first Italian to rival other great European philosophers, and declared that only BF was competent to decide which European scholar had rendered the best account of American history. In rhetorically asking for BFs permission to dedicate the work to him, Bianchi claimed to follow the example of Regnier, who had prefaced Recueil des loix constitutives des colonies angloises … (Philadelphia [i.e., Paris], 1778) with a dedicatory letter (XXVI, 529–30). For a detailed discussion of Le Lettere americane see Antonio Pace, Benjamin Franklin and Italy (Philadelphia, 1958), pp. 135–40.

3BF kept one set, now at the Library Company of Philadelphia: Wolf and Hayes, Library of Benjamin Franklin, p. 176. He donated the other set to the APS, inscribing the first and second volumes as being from Manini “to the Society”. The first volume of both sets had been altered in two places, for reasons we cannot explain. On the title page, the publication date (printed in roman numerals) was subtly changed from 1781 to 1782 by the addition of a final I that appears to have been either stamped or stenciled. Moreover, the final page of the dedication was replaced by a reprinted sheet whose only change was in the typeset signature: Manini’s name was substituted for that of Bianchi.

Having heard nothing from BF, Manini wrote again on March 8, 1784, saying that he had just learned that the volumes had been delivered (APS).

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