Benjamin Franklin essays including ideas for the study of farts may bring $350,000
On June 23, Christie's will offer an extremely rare, finely bound collection of Benjamin Franklin's privately printed 'bagatelles' - light essays, witty dialogues and satirical sketches - printed by Franklin himself at his residence in Passy, a Paris suburb (estimated at $250,000-350,000).

At the time (1778-1784), Franklin was serving as U.S. Commissioner to France, in hopes of winning France's aid and assistance in the American Revolution.

The bagatelles, most of which are in French, were printed in very few copies and intended for the amusement of Franklin's intimate friends. This unique volume will be featured in Christie's Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts sale and should make a strong alternative investment.

Franklin had learned the printing trade as a young man in his brother's print-shop and he became the foremost printer in colonial Philadelphia. Appointed by Congress as Commissioner to France, he took up residence in the Paris suburb of Passy in the latter part of 1776.

Not long afterwards, he acquired a small press and purchased a generous supply of printing types. While he used both to print official forms and records for the U.S., in his spare time he used the press for more personal purposes: the bagatelles.

Les Mouches Franklin essay
Not a serious BizzzzNizzzz... Franklin's essay Les Mouches

Elegantly printed on fine hand-made paper, the bagatelles furnish a delightful glimpse into Franklin's private circle.

They include an imaginary debate between Franklin and his gout; a humorous petition from the flies in Franklin's Passy home; a notorious satire against the pretentiousness of the Royal Society of Belgium proposing a prize for a cure for flatulence - sometimes known as Fart Proudly.

The Story of the Whistle, a moralising reminiscence from his childhood gives cautionary advice for persons planning to emigrate to America.

Bound with these rarities are five additional bagatelles neatly hand-written in a fine italic hand of the period.

 

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