Yesterday I fetched up a book entitled Astronomical Tables by Edmund Halley (London, 1752), and found some intriguing provenance evidence. The following typed note by the Librarian (Stuart Sherman) is tucked into the book:
“This volume was once owned by Benjamin Franklin and contains in his own hand writing partial indexing of the volume . . . discovered by Mr. William Spawn, Book and Paper Restorer at the American Philosophical Society, in August 1962 when working at the Providence Public Library. Mr. Edwin Wolf, 2d, Librarian of the Philadelphia Library Company will be informed by Mr. Spawn for compilation of Franklin Library.” In manuscript, with an arrow to the Franklin attribution, is added “Later thought to be in doubt by William Spawn.”
There is more definite evidence of previous ownership on the front paste down (shown here, with the index thought to be in Franklin’s hand), which includes the bookplate of the famous cartographer Osgood Carleton, and a handwritten note, thus:
“Danl. Ricketson, 1861, formerly the property of his maternal grandfather, Elisha Thornton of Smithfield, R.I., who died in New Bedford, Mass. 12m o31 1815 in his 70th year. Accounted a good astronomer.” Another loose piece of paper reads “Baulston Brayton’s Book” (Brayton was was figure in Smithfield, RI in the 1750s). The Library received the book from Frederick A. Arnold in 1925.
My question to those Franklin experts out there: what do you think? Is the index in his hand? I suspect not, but it would be nice…