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Library Co. of Phila.
Poor Richardís Books: An Exhibition of Books Owned by Benjamin Franklin Now on the Shelves of the Library Company of Philadelphia
James Green (ed)
This exhibition of books is based on the reconstruction of Benjamin Franklinís library by Edwin Wolf 2nd. At the time of his death in 1790, Franklin had the largest & best private library in Amer., consisting of 4,276 vols. He willed most of it to his grandson William Franklin, who sold them off in Phila. in 1801 & 1803, & none of the cat. made of it survive. Benjamin Franklin used no book plate & he seldom signed or annotated his books, so until recently hardly anything was known about them. Wolf discovered the key to identifying Franklinís books was a cryptic shelfmark penciled in each of them when they were installed in Franklin Court after his return from France in 1785. These marks were transcribed into a now-lost mss. catalogue, which assured that every book could be found with ease & returned to its appointed place. For over 30 years, Mr. Wolf scoured shelves looking for the telltale shelfmark. He also collated data from Franklinís letters & papers, books known to have belonged to the individuals who bought heavily at the sales in 1801 & 1803, & the acquisition records of institutional libraries for that period. He has been able to identify over a thousand vols. as Franklinís. The largest cache, about 350 vols., today belong to the Library Co. & to the Historical Soc. of PA. From this collection some 70 vols. have been selected for exhibition.
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