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American Philosophical Society
The Library of Benjamin Franklin (Memoir 257)
Edwin Wolf 2nd and Kevin J. Hayes
Beginning in the late 1950s, Edwin Wolf 2nd embarked on a bibliographic odyssey to reconstruct the “lost” library of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s library, the largest and best private library at the time of his death in 1790, was sold by his grandson in the last eighteenth century to Robert Morris Jr., who subsequently sold it in the early nineteenth century. None of the catalogs of the collection survive, and the contents of the library were virtually unknown until 1956, when Wolf discovered the unique shelfmarks Franklin used to identify his books. Wolf’s work to reconstruct a catalog of the library continued for the next thirty years but was unfinished at the time of his death. As the tercentenary of Franklin’s birth approached, Kevin J. Hayes took up the work and has continued to discover titles that were part of the library. Everything found to date, close to 4,000 entries, has been compiled here. (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society and the Library Company of Philadelphia, 2006.)
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