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Poor Richard's Almanack


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Written and published by Franklin at Philadelphia (1733–58), is the most famous of American almanacs, although it followed the pattern previously established in the colonies and in England. Poor Richard's undoubtedly derives from Poor Robin's, the English almanac which began publication in 1663, and the name Richard Saunders, with which Franklin signed his prefaces, is the same as that of the English editor of Apollo Anglicanus. Franklin likewise owed other debts to predecessors, particularly to his Pennsylvania contemporary, Titan Leeds, on whom he played a hoax that resembles Swift's humorous prognostication of the death of a rival almanac maker. To the almanac Franklin introduced characters on whom he draped his humor and homely wisdom, and the figures Richard and Bridget Saunders became popular in the contemporary American mind. Many of the shrewd maxims and proverbs that Franklin wrote and collected were brought together in Father Abraham's Speech, the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending an auction, and were published in the almanac of 1758. They were separately published under that title the following year, but many later reprints appeared with a title that was not Franklin's: The Way to Wealth. The title was not inappropriate, for the gathering of apothegms included only those that inculcated virtue and frugality, and not the many other witty and cynical observations. The almanacs from 1748 on were called Poor Richard Improved, and probably did not contain any writing by Franklin, who sold the almanac (1758), although it continued to be published until 1796.

Subjects: Bibliography.


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Benjamin Franklin (1706—1790) natural philosopher, writer, and revolutionary politician in America


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