John Baskerville and Benjamin Franklin: A Trans-Atlantic Friendship

1750 - 1900 (c.)

Image: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). The Hundred Greatest Men: Portraits of the One Hundred Greatest Men, Vol VII Politics, (Sampson Low, London, 1880).

Image from: Local Studies and History, Birmingham Central Library

Text: Olga Baird


Benjamin Franklin and John Baskerville were two important figures of the 18th century Enlightenment. Franklin was a thinker, scientist and politician and one of the central individuals in American history, but his favourite self-description was “Benjamin Franklin, Printer”. Baskerville was an artist, industrial innovator, printer and creator of the famous Baskerville type. They shared the same year of birth and a professional interest in type founding and book production. Franklin visited Birmingham frequently, staying with Baskerville and commenting on his printing, supporting his activities and advocating his work. In this article, Olga Baird explores the relationship between the two men.

Continue browsing this section

4626-0John Baskerville and Benjamin Franklin: A Trans-Atlantic Friendship 3681-0Benjamin Franklin, Printer 1259-0Franklin and Typefounding 946-0Baskerville and Franklin: Status and Success 4879-0Baskerville Type 2179-0Franklin and Baskerville: Printing Activities 2178-0Franklin and Baskerville: Literary Tastes 4454-0Franklin and Baskerville: Religion 4455-0Franklin and Baskerville: Friendship and Co-operation 4881-0Baskerville and the Sale of Type from his Type Foundry 4880-0Franklin and Baskerville: Epitaphs
Sources and Further Reading

Benton, J H, J.Baskerville, Type-founder and Printer 1706-1775 (New York, 1944). Jay, Leonard, Letters of the famous 18th Century Printer John Baskerville of Birmingham(Birmingham, 1932).
Leo Lemay, J A, Reappraising Benjamin Franklin: A bicentennial perspective (1993).
Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (London, 1916).
Pardoe, F E, John Baskerville of Birmingham: Letter-Founder and Printer (London, 1975).
Wright, Esmond, Benjamin Franklin: His Life as He Wrote It (1989).
Updike, D B, Printing Types: Their History, Forms and Use (1922).

Examples of all of Baskerville’s publications are held at Birmingham Central Library. Copies of Baskerville’s Bible are held by Birmingham Assay Office and the Cathedral Church of St Philip, Birmingham.