FRANKLIN TELLS US that "from a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was ever laid out in Books." As with many New Englanders, the book which stood first in his memory of boyhood reading was John Bunyan 's Pilgrim's Progress. Delighted with it, he bought as his first collection "Bunyan's Works in separate little Volumes." He read the "Books in polemic Divinity" which filled his father's "little Library," but regretted the time spent on them. He devoured Plutarch's Lives ("time spent to great Advantage"), and bought forty or fifty volumes of Burton's historical collections, little books which melted English history down into anecdotes, curiosities, patriotism, moral lessons, and dramatic incidents. At about the same time he read Daniel Defoe 's Essay on Projects and Cotton Mather's Essays to do Good. With this reading, done while the incessant religious instruction continued, Franklin began the transformation of doctrine into precepts, of sermons into good works, which remained the special mark of his genius as long as he lived. These books reinforced the habits learned in his daily round of boyhood life.
In retrospect one finds it difficult to reconstruct anything of the impact of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in the New England of Franklin's youth, where it ranked with the Bible and a few psalters,