Description[Benjamin Franklin, printer]. Marcus Tullius Cicero. Cato Major, or his discourse of Old-Age: with Explanatory Notes. Translated by James Logan. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, 1744. First edition, first state of signature D with "ony" on page 27. Octavo in fours (197 x 114 mm). [1, blank], viii, 159, [3, blank] pages. Title printed in red and black, with printer's device. Full period calf, double ruled in gilt, rebacked in similar style with five raised bands; a few scratches, a bit rubbed, corners just bumped. Cream-colored endpapers, all edges trimmed; ink ownership "Samuel Witt his Book / 1752" to front free endpaper, rear free endpaper with a few ink annotations, scattered foxing and staining. Internally sound with moderate foxing throughout, scattered staining and soiling, some chipping to text block throughout but confined to margins and not affecting text. Still, a very good copy of this important Franklin imprint. Housed in a brown cloth chemise and quarter morocco over marbled boards slipcase, lettered and ruled in gilt.
Franklin's bibliographers, and indeed bibliographers of early American imprints in general, all concur that the present title is the pinnacle of Franklin's press, with Evans stating, "this is generally considered to be the best specimen of printing produced by Franklin's press." Ford agrees, remarking, "it is the finest piece of printing from Franklin's press, and is eagerly sought for by collectors..." Sabin conclusively notes, "[this is] probably the finest production of Franklin's press, and really a splendid specimen of the art."
Without concern for word-count, Church begins, "it is generally conceded to be the finest product of Franklin's press, if not of the American press of the eighteenth century. It is really a beautiful specimen of the printer's art," and he concludes with a quote from Franklin's own The Printer to the Reader, which notes the volume is printed, "in a large and fair Character, that those who begin to think on the Subject of OLD-AGE, (which seldom happens till their Sight is somewhat impair'd by its Approaches) may not, in Reading, by the Pain small Letters give the Eyes, feel the Pleasure of the Mind in the least allayed."
Church 949; ESTC W20709; Evans 5361; Ford, page 25; Hildeburn 868; Miller 347; Sabin 13040.
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