American icon Benjamin Franklin is known for many things: he published the famous Poor Richard's Almanack, helped found the world-famous University of Pennsylvania, and was the first Postmaster General of the United States. His iconography is everywhere. His likeness adorns, among other things, the United States' hundred-dollar bill. Franklin was a wildly intriguing personality, as his autobiography makes plain. From his hoarding of his pay as a teenager to buy books to his askance at such habits as drinking beer, from his work as a printer to his experiments with electricity, this is the story of Franklin's life--told as only he could tell it--in the years before the American Revolution.
Benjamin Franklin's writings represent a career of literary, scientific, and political efforts which extended nearly the entire eighteenth century and the birth of the United States. This heavily illustrated version of Franklin's autobiography includes his reflections on diverse questions such as philosophy and religion, social status, electricity, American national characteristics, war, and the status of women.
A classic in the American canon, Franklin's autobiography is a must-read for any serious student of American history.
On the eve of the tercentenary of Franklin's birth, the university he founded has selected the Autobiography for the Penn Reading Project. Each year, for the past fifteen years, the University of Pennsylvania has chosen a single work that the entire incoming class, and a large segment of the faculty and staff, read and discuss together. For this occasion the University of Pennsylvania Press will publish a special edition of Franklin's Autobiography, including a new preface by University president Amy Gutmann and an introduction by distinguished scholar Peter Conn. The volume will also include four short essays by noted Penn professors as well as a chronology of Franklin's life and the text of Franklin's Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, a document resulting in the establishment of an institution of higher education that ultimately became the University of Pennsylvania.
No area of human endeavor escaped Franklin's keen attentions. His ideas and values, as Amy Gutmann notes in her remarks, have shaped the modern University of Pennsylvania profoundly, "more profoundly than have the founders of any other major university of college in the United States." Franklin believed that he had been born too soon. Readers will recognize that his spirit lives on at Penn today.
Essay contributors: Richard R. Beeman, Paul Guyer, Michael Weisberg, and Michael Zuckerman.