The Letters of Benjamin Franklin & Jane Mecom

By Benjamin Franklin; Jane Mecom et al. | Go to book overview

This family is all well at present, and join in love to you and yours, with your affectionate brother,

B. FRANKLIN


"Teaching Children to read"

[Printed first, and hitherto only, in Carl Van Doren, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiographical Writings, p. 768, and here printed again from the manuscript in the American Philosophical Society. The books in question had been printed in 1788 by Benjamin Franklin Bache in his new printing house under his grandfather's eye. They were actually reprints of four English books by Anna Letitia Barbauld: Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons for Children, from Two to Four Years Old, Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons for Children of Four Years Old, Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons for Children from Four to Five Years Old, Mrs. Barbauld's Lessons for Children of Five Years Old. Each of them, the title-page read, With alterations, suited to the American climate. Since Jane Mecom's letter of January 10, 1789, is missing, it is not quite sure what her difficulties had been with the books, which were evidently sent to her for her benefit as well as Benjamin Bache's. Franklin seemed to think that Jonathan Williams Sr., to whom the books had been consigned for Jane Mecom, was remiss. A letter from Jonathan Williams Jr. to Franklin, dated September 6, 1789, and in the American Philosophical Society, helps clear the matter up. "I have attended to the affairs about the Books sent for the use of aunt mecom, and found in the first place that one of the Bundles containing the whole of the 3d Volume had been stolen, the Thief finding only good books instead of banknotes left them in the cellar of an old uninhabited House, there they were found & published (advertised) by a constable in order to discover the owner, before they were missed by our family. The number was reduced by being scattered & damaged, what remained were given to a Bookbinder at 1/3 for binding, so that at my return I found the 1. 2. & 4th Volume in sheets as at first, and about 60 of the 3d Volume bound in marble. I have ordered all the remainder to be bound in the same manner & on the same conditions, which I am told are the customary ones: I then propose to agree with a Bookseller at a certain price, as high as I can, in this way: He to give a note of hand payable at a given time for the Amount, but conditioned that if any of the Books remain unsold when the note becomes due, they shall be received again at price cost. I think it will be well to try this experiment before they are sent back, especially as I believe that when the Books are better known they will be in fresh demand as to make our Booksellers apply to Benjamin for more. This is a Business which I do not very well understand but I will do the best I can, I find it vain to attempt an absolute sale, & by making the con-

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