Open house will celebrate the life and works of Benjamin Franklin

The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, which was founded with the goal of publishing the definitive edition of Franklin’s writings, will celebrate the birthday of its namesake with an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 17 showcasing its work and the collection in which it is housed — which is considered to be the most extensive compilation of materials by, about, and related to the Founding Father to be found in the world.

The collection, which was acquired by Yale in the 1930s, was assembled by alumnus William Smith Mason in the then newly-constructed Sterling Memorial Library. It includes about 15,000 volumes, from rare books and pamphlets published in America, England, and throughout Europe; to 18th-century newspapers and periodicals from America, England, and France; and an array of original manuscripts and maps, prints, busts, oil paintings, and other art objects including medallions and numismatics.

In 1954, Yale partnered with the American Philosophical Society to launch The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, a comprehensive, annotated edition of Franklin’s writings and correspondence, published by the Yale University Press. To date, the project has published 43 out of a total of 47 volumes.

The idea was not to just do the selective writings of Franklin, but to include everything,” says Ellen R. Cohn, editor-in-chief of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin at Yale. “About 80% of what is in our volumes has never before been published, and even of the material that historians have examined, we are constantly making discoveries that, in many cases, corrects the historical record. Each of these volumes contains a wealth of new scholarship.”

The volumes of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin are available in print at Yale University Press and online in digital form.

The Franklin Papers edition has transformed the study of Franklin and his world. It is the foundation upon which thousands of scholarly and popular books, biographies, monographs, articles, and exhibitions have been based over last 60 years,” notes Cohn.

Franklin’s connection to Yale dates back to 1753, when Yale conferred on Franklin an honorary M.A. (in absentia), in recognition of his work on electricity. In 1755, Franklin paid a visit to New Haven. By that time, he had donated to the college an electrostatic generator and two scholarly volumes. He had also set up a printing house on a plot of land now occupied by Old Campus, which in the hands of one of his protégés produced the first book ever published in New Haven — a volume of Yale College laws.

The Yale community is invited to attend the open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Rm. 230, Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St. A Yale ID is required to access the elevators to the second floor of SML. Cohn will also be the guest at a college tea at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 18 at Benjamin Franklin College, 90 Prospect St.


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Bess Connolly Martell: [email protected], 203-432-1324