The Acquisitions Table: Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin.  New York: J. Dalton, for the New York Albion, ca. 1860.

ben franklinLarge format engravings were distributed in several ways in pre-Civil War America.  They could be ordered from a publisher by subscription, purchased directly through book and print dealers, or awarded as premiums for membership in an organization, such as the American Art Union. Many newspapers and periodicals also distributed prints to their subscribers, usually sending inexpensive lithographs as year-end thank-you’s to customers.  The weekly New York Albion eschewed lithographs completely and instead sent their subscribers an annual (and more expensive) engraving. This image of Benjamin Franklin is an example of one of the Albion’s subscription premiums.  The Albion started publishing in 1822 and began issuing engravings in 1837.  The majority of the prints are British in subject matter, which was fitting for the paper’s Anglophile audience (although printed in New York City, the paper described itself as a “British, colonial, and foreign weekly gazette”). AAS holds eleven of the twenty-five engravings distributed by this paper.

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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