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University of Iowa News Release


April 29, 2011

UI Press publishes 'Franklin in His Own Time' May 8

The University of Iowa Press will release "Franklin in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates," the new volume in the Writers in Their Own Time series, on May 8.

"Franklin in His Own Time," edited by Kevin J. Hayes and Isabelle Bour, includes 35 recollections that create a collaborative biography of Benjamin Franklin, who during his lifetime was the world's most famous American.

Even those personally unacquainted with the man knew him as the author of "Poor Richard's Almanack," as a pioneer in the study of electricity and a major figure in the American Enlightenment, as the creator of such life-changing innovations as the lightning rod and America's first circulating library, and as a leader of the American Revolution. His friends also knew him as a brilliant conversationalist, a great wit, an intellectual filled with curiosity and, most of all, a master anecdotist whose vast store of knowledge complemented his conversational skills.

Opening with an account by botanist Peter Kalm showing that Franklin was doing all he could to encourage the development of science in North America, it includes on-the-spot impressions from Daniel Fisher's diary, the earliest surviving interview with Franklin, recollections from James Madison and Abigail Adams, Manasseh Cutler's detailed description of the library at Franklin Court, and extracts from Alexander Hamilton's unvarnished "Minutes of the Tuesday Club."

Franklin's political missions to Great Britain and France, where he took full advantage of rich social and intellectual opportunities, are a source of many reminiscences, some published in this volume in new translations.

Genuine memories from old friends including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, as opposed to memories influenced by his autobiography, clarify Franklin's reputation. Robert Carr may have been the last remaining person who knew Franklin personally, and his significant recollections are included.

Each entry is introduced by a headnote that places the selection in its historical and cultural contexts; explanatory notes provide information about people and places; and the editors' comprehensive introduction and chronology detail Franklin's eventful life. Dozens of primary sources published incrementally over more than 100 years illustrate the complexity of the man, his mind and his mannerisms in a way that no single biographer could.

Hayes is a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma and author of several books, including "The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson" and "The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas." With Edwin Wolf II he co-authored "The Library of Benjamin Franklin."

Bour is a professor of 18th-century English studies at the Sorbonne. She is the editor of J. G. Lockhart's "The History of Matthew Wald" and "M. de La Coste's Voyage philosophique d'Angleterre" and co-translator of Emilie du Châtelet's "Selected Philosophical and Scientific Writings."

The Writers in Their Own Time series, overseen by series editor Joel Myerson, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of South Carolina, provides the best first-hand accounts—published and unpublished, adulatory and critical. Written by both famous and forgotten contemporaries, this series makes the lives of American writers better understood and more accessible to scholars, students and general readers.

Previous volumes in the series include portraits of Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman.

"Franklin in His Own Time" will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, 800-621-2736 or Customers in Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from Eurospan Group at

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