The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Barnes & Noble Edition)

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the most important and influential works in American history. It tells the story of Franklin’s life from his humble beginnings to his emergence as a leading figure in the American colonies.  In the process, it creates a portrait of Franklin as the quintessential American. Because of the book, Franklin became a role model for future generations of Americans, who hoped to emulate his rags to riches story. The Autobiography has also become one of the central ...

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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Overview

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the most important and influential works in American history. It tells the story of Franklin’s life from his humble beginnings to his emergence as a leading figure in the American colonies.  In the process, it creates a portrait of Franklin as the quintessential American. Because of the book, Franklin became a role model for future generations of Americans, who hoped to emulate his rags to riches story. The Autobiography has also become one of the central works not just for understanding Franklin but for understanding America.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781435109292
  • Publisher: Sterling
  • Publication date: 11/10/2008
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Edition Series
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 4.80 (w) x 7.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a man of many roles—printer, author, philosopher, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and politician to name only a few.  His experiments in electricity made him the most famous American in the colonies. Politics and diplomacy occupied him for most of the latter half of his life.

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Read an Excerpt

Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was a man of many roles—philosopher, scientist, inventor, diplomat, and politician.  He lived a varied life and found himself at the center of virtually every major American event of the late 1700s.   Franklin was so successful as a businessman that he was able to retire at the age of forty-two. He proved equally adept at science, his experiments with electricity making him the most famous American of his day.  Franklin was also a master of politics and diplomacy, which occupied him in the latter half of his life.  Moreover, he was a literary man and publisher of newspapers and almanacs, which provided him with an outlet for his ideas, his political views, and his wise and witty sayings.  Now readers can enjoy the quintessential works of Benjamin Franklin in a single volume: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin offers the key to understanding his sometimes elusive and celebrated life, and Wit & Wisdom, includes the best and most popular writings that made him a celebrity and literary giant of his age.

 

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is essential reading about this complex and multifaceted personality.  Born to a poor Boston candle maker and soap-boiler, Franklin knew that success would come only from his own efforts. As a teenager he was apprenticed to his brother James, a printer, but he eventually broke his indentures, left his brother’s shop, and ran away to Philadelphia in 1723.  He soon found a job with another printer and opened his own printing shop a few years later.  In 1729 he acquired a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and in 1732 he began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack, which played an important role in establishing Franklin’s wealth and reputation.

During his years in Philadelphia, Franklin played an increasingly influential role in the civic life of the city and was involved in many ventures to improve conditions there. After retirement, Franklin performed a variety of experiments with lightning, or “electric fire,” as he called it. He eventually came up with a theory to explain electricity in its various forms, and his discoveries made him the most famous American in the thirteen colonies.

Franklin’s retirement, however, was largely spent in public service.  In 1757, and again in 1764, he was sent to London as the representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly.  As tensions increased between the colonies and England, Franklin left England in 1775 and was elected to the second Continental Congress, after which, in 1776, he returned to Europe to persuade the French government to support the Revolution. After the war, he helped to negotiate the treaty with Great Britain and returned to Philadelphia in 1785.  Franklin attended the Constitutional Convention—though he did not play a significant role in drafting—and then worked for the abolition of slavery in his final years of life.

Franklin’s Autobiography played a crucial role in his reputation as the prototypical American. The work has a complicated history, which is why readers often find it ambiguous.  The Autobiography was composed in four parts: the first part was written in the summer of 1771; Franklin wrote the second part in France in 1784, incorporating two letters from admirers urging him to continue his story. The letters were a justification for what was a revolutionary undertaking: his Autobiography was not the work of a king or a famous general, but of a man who had begun life as a poor tradesman. Although early America was far from a classless society, it was remarkably fluid, affording Franklin the opportunity to rise to prominence through merit.  Franklin wrote the third part, the longest, in 1788 after retiring from politics; and sometime before his death in April 1790, Franklin added the short fourth section.

The extended period of the Autobiography’s composition left its imprint on its tone.  When he wrote the first part, Franklin still thought of himself as English.  By the time he began the second section after the Revolution, however, he consciously recast himself as American.  In the third and fourth sections, we see Franklin in the role of a leading citizen of Philadelphia.  Throughout the work, Franklin remains a somewhat elusive figure—the very artlessness of the writing disguising the man who constantly and consciously shaped his image for public consumption.  Regardless of one’s view of his evolving persona, Franklin provided the definitively American template for personal success.  He became a role model for future generations who hoped to emulate his rags-to-riches story, which contributes to the reputation of the Autobiography as not only the key to understanding Franklin but also the key to understanding of the origins of the “American Dream.”

Benjamin Franklin’s Wit & Wisdom, also collected here, includes extracts from Poor Richard’s Almanack, one of Franklin’s most beguiling and successful creations.  Franklin delighted in cloaking his writing behind a variety of literary personas, with “Poor” Richard Saunders of the Almanack remaining one of his most beloved.  The Almanack holds a central place in understanding Franklin’s evolution from humble tradesman to founding father, and his collected wit and wisdom, as it found expression through his literary alter egos, still retains its ability to surprise and delight readers today.

Among the earliest known publications, almanacs usually included a calendar, as well as a variety of data such as the rising and setting of the sun and moon, the phases of the moon, the positions of heavenly bodies, eclipses, high and low tides, holy days, holidays, and other miscellaneous information.  Almanacs were a lot alike, so a distinctive style was essential for success—and style was something Franklin was able to effortlessly command. Although his format followed that of others, Franklin created a distinctive voice through the character of Poor Richard and showed a knack for marketing his new creation.  In the first edition of 1733, Franklin, speaking as Poor Richard, frankly confessed his profit motive for publishing an almanac and also flattered his audience, something which made his work better received.

Franklin published the Almanack for twenty-five years. During that period, Poor Richard changed character in a number of ways. He was originally a dim-witted and somewhat foolish astronomer. Over time, he became the more famous Poor Richard, a pious country dweller who was a never-ending source of wisdom on the value of frugality and hard work.  During the first decade of publication, the emphasis was on entertainment. In later years, the Almanack developed a moral and didactic tone. 

Eventually, Franklin’s writing became more wisdom and less wit; it became less comical, combative, and bawdy and developed a more mature and measured tone, reflecting Franklin’s growing public reputation and responsibilities. 

Through a generous sampling of his work, including his epitaph, his views on the game of chess, and his analyses of government and the wealth of nations, the Benjamin Franklin Reader reveals the many facets of a whimsical yet critical writer.  We discover the philosopher who provided a maxim for every occasion, the inventor who flew a kite in a thunder storm, the diplomat who made the British Empire quake in her boots, and the man who stayed focused, calm, and in control during incendiary times.

Charismatic and intelligent, industrious and courageous, outspoken and innovative, Benjamin Franklin was a maverick and a visionary.  Embodying the hopes and aspirations of young America, he helped to foster a new dream—a dream that one could, through diligence and prudence, become a success. 

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 194 )
Rating Distribution

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(58)

4 Star

(46)

3 Star

(44)

2 Star

(25)

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(21)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 194 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2007

    Insights from America's original innovator

    Benjamin Franklin, one of history¿s most remarkable human beings, was born in Boston in 1706. Largely self-taught, he became a respected scientist whose experiments on electricity received international acclaim. He invented the lightning rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, the glass harmonica, an odometer and more. He was a self-made man who became wealthy as one of America's first commercial printers. He was a respected civic activist, a leading author, a politician and a political theorist. Many of the wise maxims expressed in his immortal Poor Richard's Almanack remain relevant and routinely quoted. Franklin is considered one of America's most accomplished diplomats. He served as minister to France during the Revolutionary War. In that post, he engineered a vital political alliance with the French, winning crucial military and financial aid. We think that anyone who loves history will find this spellbinding autobiography a rare delight. Franklin was on intimate terms with many of the most famous individuals in prerevolutionary America. Indeed, he seemed to have personal dealings with virtually everyone of merit in the New World. His autobiography, written in the best of the archaic language of the time, is a literary classic. Don't deprive yourself of this singular opportunity to learn what the American colonies were like during the prerevolutionary era, as reported by the extraordinary genius who first conceptualized the idea of the United States as an independent nation.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Surprsingly surprised

    Albeit Benjamin Franklin is a staple in American history, I'd never read more about him than what those few, short paragraphs school texts provide. It's a hard read for the laymen; the writing style is something of a "chew-through," if you catch my meaning (though I personally enjoyed the difficulty). I recommened this book to anybody questioning the value of hard work, ingenuity, vigor, stamina, and resilience. Benjamin Franklin is THE representation of our heritage, the figure to whom a great many turn when inquiring into our country's origin. Who better to illustrate it, then, than the man himself?

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2010

    A straightforward account of a life by the man himself.

    Benjamin Franklin is one of the more inspiring individuals in the history of the US. Reading through this autobiography, it becomes apparent that he was a true "self-made" man. He gives account of his achievements as well as his shortcomings and provides insight regarding how he grew (or failed to grow) from each.

    This is not a volume of hardcore history. At most, it will provide some context to Franklin's actions leading up to and during the American Revolution by revealing where he came from.

    Personally, I found this book a motivator for personal growth and responsibility. Franklin led his life taking full responsibility for his actions - successes and failures alike. In my opinion, his example and way of living is a lesson the we as a people would do well to relearn.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2010

    Benjamin Franklin. An Amazing scientist.

    this is a very good book has a lot of information on him from a child to an adult. He was Extremely deticated to almost everything he did, which you dont see much anymore. He worked very hard and this book showed this. It's hard to believe he retired at 45... wow. This book tought me a lot about him, before reading it i really only knew he made electricity. I didnt know that he did all kinds of other things and also did not know of the process that he took to find it. If you ask me we have Dr. Spencer to thank as much as we do Benjamin Franklin.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    One of the greatest of the Founding Fathers

    This is an amazing account of Benjamin Franklin in his own words. He was an absolutely amazing man. He accomplished so much in his life and he gave us so much that he is one of the greatest of our Founding Fathers. He was so far ahead of his time and incredibly intelligent for his time. This should be required reading in our schools.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin effectively allows the re

    The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin effectively allows the reader to follow the journey of Franklin and offers us a better perspective on just how impressive this man was. The autobiography itself is broken into the three distinct sections and as expected break up the different parts of Franklin’s life. The first section establishes the major theme of the book- self betterment. It additionally gives background information on the family ancestry of Franklin and his own family during his youth. It also tracks the earlier life of Franklin, in particular his work with printers and full of criticism for his boss at the time. It begins the development of Franklin as a great writer and one who produces his work. Perhaps one of the most fascinating parts of the book was part three as he discusses and goes into detail his life as a scientist and the inventions he created in his life.

    The biography is truly demonstrative of Franklin’s humor and philosophical beliefs that matured throughout his life. His writings take on an aspect of appreciating the better sides of humanity. While the language he uses may be a bit confusing, or at least seem a bit daunting, Franklin is still able to communicate his effective messages throughout the work. What was particularly refreshing was the absence of detail on the revolution, it allowed us to establish a better connection with his personality and ultimately feel closer to him.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2012

    I would give this book to a graduate in high school or college as a helpful guide in life

    This book has much to say in dealing with different people. It is benjamin franklin telling his story and he tells what he has learned in his lifetime what he would recommend for a young man to do just starting out in life, to business, adventures on the sea and providing for a family. It is simply amazing and inspiring. I give this a high recommendation. You must read this book to help you get an idea for a sucessful life, or just finding a great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    Have not read yet

    I did not read this book yet

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2011

    Definitive source for a brief look into B. Franklin's life.

    Looking for some insight into such an astounding founding father of the United States, I decided to pick this up as my first ever Autobiography.

    The reading was fine and everything was neatly done in this edition. It sounds authentic and from my little knowledge, it doesn't appear as though very much, if anything at al,l has been omitted except for the end part of the book. It stops very abruptly and so I decided to research this. And, in fact, Franklin did have more to write about, why this edition omits a good 2-3 more pages (by my assumption) worth of information is unknown to me.

    Other than that, the book was good and I recommend it for those who have a few questions regarding such an interesting man. Although he does not discuss the latter part of his life, including arguably the most important era, the Revolutionary War.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    Left out a few pages at the end

    I was browsing through the book and it struck me that the ending wasn't quite right. It ended with saying that they arrived in London. I compared it to my hardback copy and noticed that in my hardback that Franklin wrote another 6 pages about what happened after that. I'm hoping I can get my money back.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2010

    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

    Reading this autobiography made be wonder about the lives of my ancestors who where living in some of the same areas of the country as Benjamin Franklin. I couldn't stop reading until I finished the entire book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Wonderful autobiography

    I enjoyed reading Ben Franklin's first hand account of his life. I knew he was innovative. Found out he was a very forward thinker for his time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2008

    insightful!

    The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was very hard to comprehend.<BR/>The time period in which it was written is how the style of writing is.<BR/>Franklin goes on talking about his life but he states that he is rewriting his life to better himself. He takes out the mistakes he has done in his life, and only mentions a few mistakes alerting you to pay attention to what he mention. If you are interested in history and Franklin¿s personality then read this book. I personally didn¿t really enjoy it but it was informative.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Worst book ever















































    ,





    ,








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  • Posted December 3, 2010

    difficult to read

    I like the story, but it is difficult to read with the way it is printed. I'm going to be purchasing a different version that is more readable

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

    Average

    This was an okay book. Did not touch on any of the Revolutionary War timeperiod.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Business Thinking from One of History's Richest Men

    Ben Franklin is one of history's richest men, which led me to wanting to learn more about him. He started with only a little knowledge from a printing apprenticeship and no money, and turned it into great wealth by living some simple principles. An enlightening read!

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  • Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Classic that should be read

    In high school, I did a book report on Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography after reading only a fourth of it. Yes, the 1700s writing style seems difficult at first. I recently read the entire book and was glad I did. You get used to the stilted style. Franklin was an amazing and important character, and people - especially Americans - should go beyond the caricature of him as an old guy with long hair who flew a kite.

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  • Posted May 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A translation of older language

    This may be difficult to read. It did not absorb me. I found it difficult to understand evrything. Good luck if you choose to tackle this one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    franklin my franklin

    loved it, and gigi form a cognitive thought, then write a review.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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