IT WAS inevitable that Franklin should have made some impact upon Italian printers and editors, for the typographical brotherhood has always been characterized by a keen sense of solidarity. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reflect different attitudes, however. The first contacts between Franklin and Italian publishing circles reveal a predominant Enlightenment interest in the "philosopher," especially as a source of information on the New World. Only Bodoni, apparently, saw Franklin purely as a typographer. Nineteenth-century printers, on the other hand, were influenced by the peculiar prejudices of their times. The patriotically inclined, recalling what Franklin's journalism was supposed to have contributed toward the formation of his countrymen's national temper, made the great American a model for their own efforts to uplift the Italian masses. Moreover, the profession as a whole felt great pride that the press had furnished the artisan element for the best-known success story of the nineteenth century.

Franklin's association with Angelo Fabroni, administrator of the ancient University of Pisa, is the first of the philosophic contacts to yield typographical overtones. Summoned about the year 1770 to serve as tutor to the children of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Fabroni managed to stave off for some time the assumption of distasteful court duties by persuading his royal master to provide a preliminary junket through northern Europe. At the end of 1772 or the beginning of 1773 he suffered through four months of incompatible British food, manners, and climate. One of the few bright spots in his English sojourn was an acquaintance with Franklin, then in England as agent for several American colonies, to whom he was introduced by the Austrian imperial ambassador Count Lodovico Barbiano di Belgioioso. Franklin must have found much to discuss with the immensely erudite Italian writer and editor. He probably had already some knowledge of printing conditions in Italy, acquired from sundry sources. In 1769, for example, Thomas Gordon of Philadelphia had asked him to recommend his son-in-law Henry Benbridge, who had studied printing in Italy for several years and wished to establish himself in London;1 it is inconceivable that Franklin would have let escape such an opportunity to inform himself about Italian printing. Franklin and Fabroni surely talked about the press the latter had in his own


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Benjamin Franklin and Italy


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