I have long been looking forward to getting a decent copy of LEC’s 1964 edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanacks 1733-1758, signed and illustrated by Norman Rockwell. Having recently gotten my hands on one, I wanted to share pictures of it immediately. The book is a perfect marriage of the work of two men who are nearly synonymous for America itself.
Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) was one of American’s most influential founding father’s (often called “the First American”) who played one of the most important roles in America’s attaining of independence. Like Thomas Jefferson, Franklin was a many of many talents. A true Renaissance man. Printer, Author, Inventor, Scientist, Musician, Philosopher, Politician and Diplomat, etc. Coming from a working class background, Franklin embodies the American spirit and American Dream. He preached hard work, thrift, education, community involvement and tolerance — values that remain ideals of most Americans. His autobiography is one of the all time classics of that genre. Franklin’s learning and wit remains second to none, which makes reading his Almanacks such a pleasing experience.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is the quintessential American artist. His Saturday Evening Post covers represent Americana ideals and enshrined him in the hearts and minds of his fellow countrymen. His illustrations for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are embedded in most American’s memories as if they were pictures of one’s own children in an old, dusty photo album. As one whose name is intertwined with all-American images, I find him the perfect illustrator for Franklin’s Almanacks. His illustrations for this book are exactly what one would expect. His picture of Franklin, surround by doting women while in a study in France, sums up Franklin and his personality perfectly (see pictures below).
By the way, Easton Press has a Famous Editions version which is very nice reproduction, though does not have Rockwell’s signature, nor is the type or paper quite as nice (though all should be happy to have it, it is very, very nice and is a lot less expensive).
This LEC edition includes:
- Illustrations, including six oil paintings and forty line drawings, by Norman Rockwell, who also signed the book
- Limited to 1500 copies (mine is #353)
- Introduction by famous American author Van Wyck Brooks (The Flowering of New England)
- Book designed by Richard Ellis
- Half binding in natural domestic top grain cow-hide and imported French hand-marbled paper
- The twelve signs of the zodiac have been burned into the leather overlap with Gold stamped lettering and raised bands on the shelfback
- Ornamental cartouche, adapted from brass stencils made for Franklin in Paris in 1781, frames the date at the head of each Almanack
- 14 point Ehrhardt type for the text, 18 point Janson for the running heads
- 8 3/8″ by 12 1/2″, 336 pages
- The text was composed in Philadelphia by Westcott & Thomson, and printed at the Sign of the Stone Book
- Cream-tone laid paper specially made for this book by the Curtis Paper Company of Newark, Delaware
Below are some photo’s of my copy for a visual of this edition. My book is in pretty good shape, though feels a bit delicate. I am a fan of the cover and spine, thinking it beautiful and very reflective of an 18th century type book. The text reads nicely without strain on the eyes on paper that feels reasonably nice on the fingers. I am a big fan of Rockwell, so of course like the illustrations. The ornamental headings for each Almanack are a very nice touch. All in all, a very nice LEC book and well worth having on your shelf.
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