NEW YORK, NY.-
On June 23, Christie's
will offer an extremely rare, finely bound collection of Benjamin Franklins privately printed bagatelles-- light essays, witty dialogues and satirical sketches -- printed by Franklin himself at his residence in Passy, a Paris suburb (estimate: $250,000-350,000). At the time (1778-1784), Franklin was serving as U.S. Commissioner to France, in hopes of winning Frances aid and assistance in the American Revolution. The bagatelles, most of which are in French, were printed in very few copies and intended for the amusement of Franklins intimate friends. This unique volume will be featured in Christies Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts sale.
Franklin had learned the printing trade as a young man in his brother's print-shop and he became the foremost printer in colonial Philadelphia. Appointed by Congress as Commissioner to France, he took up residence in the Paris suburb of Passy in the latter part of 1776. Not long afterwards, he acquired a small press and purchased a generous supply of printing types. While he used both to print official forms and records for the U.S., in his spare time he used the press for more personal purposes: the bagatelles.
Elegantly printed on fine hand-made paper, the bagatelles furnish a delightful glimpse into Franklins private circle. They include an imaginary debate between Franklin and his gout; a humorous petition from the flies in Franklin's Passy home; a sharp satire against the Royal Society of Belgium (proposing a prize for a cure for flatulence); The Story of the Whistle, a moralizing reminiscence from his childhood; cautionary advice for persons planning to emigrate to America, and a brief essay on the manners of the American Indian, to name a few. Bound with these rarities are five additional bagatelles neatly hand-written in a fine italic hand of the period.
Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts June 23
Christie's Rockefeller Galleries June 18-22