enjamin Franklin’s writings cover many genres, from his unique take on ethical philosophy presented in Poor Richard’s Almanack to journalism, scientific reports, satire and autobiography. We know much about Franklin’s life in London from his letters to Polly Hewson, his London landlady’s daughter, who became like a daughter to Franklin. His skilled writing - spare, and at times humorous and emotive - conveys his character and an understanding of the man; his writings are considered great works of literature.
Franklin was largely self-taught and as a boy was an extensive reader of Bunyan, Defoe, Addison, Locke and such others. At 12 he was apprenticed as a printer to his brother James. By the time he was 16 he was contributing (under the pseudonym of Silence Dogood) to The Courant, a paper established by his brother.
Franklin returned to America from England to set up as a printer in 1726. He published and wrote most of the newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, which speedily became a success. Further triumph and widespread acclaim came in 1732 with the appearance of the first of 24 annual editions of Poor Richard's Alamanack. The Alamanack brought Franklin fame as the first American writer to achieve nation-wide readership. It was the vehicle for many of his aphorisms, which rephrased are a part of our everyday lexicon like: He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas. Among his early publishing ventures was the Philadelphische Zeitung, America’s first German-language newspaper (1732).
In 1771 Franklin published his autobiography, still hailed as a classic. Two years later, he produced his Rules by which a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Small One, one of a series of satirical pieces intended to calm tensions yet warn the British of the likely outcome of a hard line course against the colonies.
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, the only comprehensive record of Franklin’s writings, will be available for scholars to view in the Scholarship Centre at Benjamin Franklin House. The Papers have been catalogued by scholars based at Yale University. There are 37 volumes currently in print which captures Franklin’s writings and those written to and about him up through 1782; numerous volumes are yet to come! Find out more about the Papers here