Catalog Archive
Auction 188, Lot 778

First French Edition - 600 Copies Printed

"Constitutions des Treize Etats-Unis de l'Amerique", Franklin, Benjamin

Subject: Document - Early United States

Period: 1783 (published)


Color: Black & White

5.1 x 8 inches
13 x 20.3 cm
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This is the first French edition of Franklin's work printed in both Philadelphia and Paris. Translated by the Duc de la Rochefoucault, the 540-page volume contains all 13 state constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and several treaties. In a letter dated December 25, 1783 to Thomas Mifflin, Franklin states his reasoning for publishing this edition: "The extravagant Misrepresentations of our Political State, in foreign Countries, made it appear necessary to give them better Information, which I thought could not be more effectually and authentically done than by publishing a Translation into French, now the most general Language in Europe, of the Book of Constitutions which had been printed by order of Congress." This edition is noteworthy for featuring the Great Seal on the title page, the first printed book to do so. Streeter remarks that Franklin's "grand gesture in publishing and distributing these constitutions, about which there was an intense interest and curiosity among statesmen, was one of his chief achievements as propagandist for the new American republic." Howes notes 600 copies printed. Hardbound in full contemporary leather with gilt decorative elements. Previously held in the private library of Kenneth Nebenzahl.

References: Howes #C-716; Sabin #16118; cf. Streeter Sale #1035.

Condition: A

Contents are clean and tight with an occasional faint spot of foxing. Binding has light wear and the front hinge is starting at top. Bookplate of Kenneth Nebenzahl is located on the front pastedown.

Estimate: $3,000 - $3,750

Sold for: $2,000

Closed on 6/22/2022