The Letters of Benjamin Franklin & Jane Mecom

By Carl Van Doren; Benjamin Franklin et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THE American Philosophical Society in 1944 acquired from Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach a collection of letters from Benjamin Franklin to his sister Jane Mecom which had been sold in London in 1928. Many of these letters had never been published, or published in full. The Society already had numerous letters from Jane Mecom to Franklin, and plans were made for the publication of both sides of the correspondence. Investigation showed that there were elsewhere still other unpublished or uncollected letters between brother and sister. Out of this has grown the present volume, which undertakes to bring together the whole surviving correspondence between the two, with additional letters between each of them and members of the other's household; all the known letters by Jane Mecom to whomever written; and the known papers concerned with her affairs, such as her "Book of Ages" and her last will and testament, with accounts of her administration of her husband's estate and of the inventory and disposition of the property which she held when she died.

Instead of the 33 letters from Franklin to Jane Mecom in the latest collected edition of his writings, 98 are here collected, 30 of them never before published at all, and several others never published in full or with accurate texts. Besides the 37 letters from Jane Mecom to Franklin or his wife which were published in 1859, 31 more from her to her brother or to various relatives and friends are here published for the first time, with several others for the first time in full. Franklin now appears much more fully in letters to his sister than ever before, and Jane Mecom at last takes her true place in history.

The appearance of these letters in print has been slow and piecemeal. William Temple Franklin in his edition of his grandfather's Private Correspondence ( London, 1817), from 1818 called Volume II of Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D., printed two letters, in part, from Franklin to Jane Mecom. William Duane, who had married the widow

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