This Day In Literary History
On December 19th, 1732, the first issue of Poor Richard's Almanack, the famous annual publication by the legendary American writer, journalist, philosopher, scientist, and statesman Benjamin Franklin, was published.
Franklin wrote and edited his almanac under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, aka Poor Richard, a tribute to the real Richard Saunders, the 17th century English author of the Apollo Anglicanus, then London's most popular almanac.
The persona of "Poor Richard" was a nod to Isaac Bickerstaff, a pseudonym and persona once used by the legendary Anglo-Irish writer and satirist Jonathan Swift.
Poor Richard's Almanack featured a calendar, long range weather forecasts, astronomical and astrological information, brain teasers, poetry, and Ben Franklin's famous proverbs, aphorisms, and words of advice.
The almanac also included serialized news stories, essays, and other writings. You had to keep buying the almanac every year to find the conclusions to these serialized pieces, and lots of people kept buying it.
At its peak of sales and circulation, ten thousand copies were sold every year to readers around the world - an incredible circulation rate for an 18th century publication. Poor Richard's Almanack would have an amazing 25-year run, from 1732 to 1758.
In 1735, Ben Franklin's brother James died suddenly at the age of 38, leaving his widow destitute. So, Ben gave his sister-in-law 500 free copies of Poor Richard's Almanack that she could sell and keep the money to support herself and her five children.
After Poor Richard's Almanack was translated into French, one of its biggest fans was French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon established the Cisalpine Republic in Northern Italy in 1792, he ordered an Italian language translation of the almanac.
In 1812, Poor Richard's Almanack became the first English language publication to be translated into Slovene, a South Slavic language. It was translated by Janez Nepomuk Primic.
During the American Revolution, the King of France gave a ship to the legendary Scottish-American naval hero John Paul Jones named the Bonhomme Richard after his favorite publication, Poor Richard's Almanack.
In 1792, nearly 25 years after Poor Richard's Almanack ceased publication, a new almanac made its debut. Founded by Robert B. Thomas and inspired by Ben Franklin's classic almanac, it was called The Old Farmer's Almanac. It's still in publication today.
Benjamin Franklin would go on to become a founding father of the United States of America and one of its greatest statesmen. He died in 1790 at the age of 85.
Quote Of The Day
"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin
Today's video features readings from various issues of The Old Farmer's Almanack. Enjoy!