Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Walter, 29 December 1783

From John Walter8

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London Decr. 29th. 1783.


As a Gentleman of Science & a Well Wisher to the new erected Empire, I address myself to You on an Improvement, which is now introduc’d into the World, on which a pamphlet is just publish’d,9 to print with Words entire, instead of single Letters, which will be of the most important Use in the future Conduct of the Press, both for Dispatch, neatness, & Correctness— It is intended to be executed both by an Alphabetical, & numerical Arrangement, which are now inspecting by many Men of Letters, & has had the strong Approbation of Sr. Jos. Banks, the Members of the British Museum &c & has had a very gracious Reception from our Sovereign, to whom it is dedicated by his Permission.—

As no Doubt this Improvement will be equally acceptable to America, if a liberable Encouragement is given, an exact Copy of the Founts, & the Mode of conducting it shall be sent You, which cannot fail of proving acceptable to a Country, where the Arts will no Doubt flourish in an eminent Degree— The numerical Fount will be particularly useful in the dead Languages, as a numerist only is requir’d to know the Subject, the Compositor having Numbers before him, & therefore may be ignorant of what he composes. If any Correspondent of yours should make Application by your Direction, further Particulars may be known, as no doubt will the Writer of this Letter from Sir Your Most Obedt. Servt.

John Walter

PS. My Address is Queens Square Bloomsbury.

Dr. Benja. Franklin.

Addressed: Doctor Benja. Franklin. / at / Paris

Notation: John Walter Decr. 29 1784—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Walter (1739–1812), a coal merchant whose business was ruined during the war, bought from Henry Johnson in 1782 the patent for “logography,” a method of printing with casts of complete words instead of individual letters. In 1785 he established a newspaper that was printed logographically; that paper became the Times of London: DNB. The present overture led to an enthusiastic exchange of letters that continued for many years. Most of it is published in George S. Eddy, “Correspondence Between Dr. Benjamin Franklin and John Walter, Regarding the Logographic Process of Printing,” American Antiquarian Society Proc., XXXVIII (1929), 349–63.

9Henry Johnson, An Introduction to Logography … (London, 1783).

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