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from twenty to thirty pounds each year; no mean sum at a time when the chief justice was given but one hundred pounds a year, when the associate justice got but fifty pounds, and when the attorney-general was forced to be content with sixty.
Such prices could well afford to be paid, for the almanac was the one piece of literature of which the sale was sure. Not a household for a hundred miles around the printer but, if there was sixpence to spare, would have a copy. In remote towns, where money was not to be had, a dozen copies would be bought with potatoes or wheat, and disposed of one by one,
- at the blacksmith's for a few nails; at the tavern for rum; at some neighbor's in payment of a trifling debt. Chapmen carried them in their packs to exchange with copper kettles and china bowls, for worsted stockings and knit gloves. They were the diaries, the journals, the account books of the poor. Strung upon a stick and hung beside the chimney. place, they formed an unbroken record of domestic affairs, in many instances for thirty years. On the margins of one since picked up at a paper mill are recorded the interesting. cases of a physician's practice, and the names of those who suffered with the smallpox and the flux. Another has become a complete
journal of farm life. A third is filled with verses written in imitation of Pope and Young.
It is not by mere chance that the second piece of printing done in the colonies, and the first piece done in the middle states, were almanacs. Samuel Atkins told no more than plain truth when, in the preface to "Kalendarium Pennsilvaniense," he declared that wherever he went in his travels he found the people so clamorous for an almanac that he was "really troubled," and did design according to his knowledge to "pleasure his countrymen" with what they wanted.
But one attempt at almanac-making was enough for Atkins, and the next year Daniel Leeds took his place. Leeds describes himself as a "Student in Agriculture;" but jack-ofall-trades would have been more just. Unquestionably a man of parts, he was by turns a cooper, a surveyor-general, a member of the assembly, a member of the New Jersey provincial council, a book-maker, an almanacmaker, and, save one, the most prolific of all writers on the great schism stirred up by Keith. Even now his "News of a Trumpet,' his "Trumpet Sounded," his "Hue and Cry," and his "Great Mystery of Fox-craft Discovered," are said to be far from tedious. But even Leeds, shrewd as he was, had not learned
the art of almanac-making, put in what he intended for wit and fun, and brought down upon himself the anger of the Friends. The Burlington meeting condemned his almanac and bade him print nothing he had not first shown to them. The Philadelphia meeting brought up the edition, suppressed it, and not one copy is extant. Leeds in alarm humbled himself in the dust, admitted that he had sinned, promised to write more soberly in the future, soon became an Episcopalian, and thenceforth reviled and was reviled by the Friends.
When Bradford left Philadelphia, Leeds's almanac went with him to New York, and for six years no such work was printed in Pennsylvania. But with the revival of printing in 1699 a new crop of philomaths, students in agriculture, and philodespots sprang up and flourished exceedingly. In 1732 there were, in Philadelphia alone, the almanacs of Evans, of Birkett, of Godfrey, of Taylor, of Jerman, Der Teutsche Pilgrim, and of Titan Leeds so exquisitely ridiculed in the early issues of "Poor Richard."
The ingredients of all these books were the same. The title-page commonly did duty for a table of contents. The preface was devoted to describing the merits of what came after, to sneers at the critics of the last year's number,
and to the abuse of the works of rival philomaths. Following the preface was the naked man bestriding the globe, the calendars of the months, the days for holding courts and fairs, a chronology that always went back to Adam, a list of British rulers in which Cromwell never had a place, verses destitute of feet and sense, and a serious prognostication of events as foretold by eclipses and the planets.
In writing their almanacs, American "philomaths" without exception borrowed most freely from English contemporaries, and from this time-honored usage Franklin did not depart. Richard Saunders, who long edited the "Apollo Angelicanus," furnished the name under which he wrote. Poor Robin supplied the hint for the title, and many ideas for the general plan.
"Poor Robin" was an English comic almanac defaced with the indecency and licentiousness it was then the fashion to associate with wit, with humor, and with broad fun. One number is declared to be "calculated to the meridian of all honest merry hearts; and writ in their language; and fitted to all latitudes in the temperate zone, where people are neither hot with passion nor cold with envy, and where the Pole is elevated ninety degrees above scandal and detraction." Another is suited "to all latitudes and capacities whatsoever, but more
especially those that have got sixpence to spare to buy an almanac." A third bears the title, "Poor Robin. A prognostication for the year of our Lord God 1725, wherein you have a scheme (not for a Lottery, nor the South Sea) but for the use of Astrologers, with an account of the eclipses, and a great many more than any other almanac mentions, with predictions about courtings, weddings, &c., the like not extant."
The account of the eclipses which no other almanac mentions might have been written by Poor Richard himself. Indeed it is closely paralleled in his prognostication for 1739.
With a few hints borrowed from these two sources, Franklin began the publication of "Poor Richard" in October, 1732. The success was immense. Before the month ended the first impression was exhausted. When the year closed, the third edition was offered for sale. Not a little of this popularity is, we believe, to be ascribed to the air of reality that pervades the whole book. To those who read "Poor Robin" then, as to those who read him now, he was a mere name, a mask to hide another name. Poor Richard was a person, almost as real to those who read him as King George or Governor Penn, or any of the famous men of whom they were constantly hearing but