FRANKLIN, Benjamin (printer); Marcus Tullius CICERO; James LOGAN (translator)
M. T. Cicero's Cato Major, or His Discourse of Old-Age: With Explanatory Notes
Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1744. 4to. 7 5/8 x 5 1/2 inches. viii, 159 pp. Title printed in red and black, typographical ornaments throughout. Translated and edited by James Logan, and with his cut signature on vellum, mounted to verso of front free endpaper. Inscribed by Dr. John Archibald Ashburner to his half brother John Forbes Jr., 1820, on second free leaf. Mounted portrait of Logan and previous cataloguer's notes on front free endpaper verso; previous cataloguer's description in pencil on first free leaf, blindstamp of Castle Newe Strathdon Aberdeenshire on same.
Early nineteenth-century (ca. 1820) brown straight-grain morocco binding, stamped in gilt; all edges gilt; gilt dentelles; red endpapers.
First edition of Franklin's famous Cato Major, often considered the finest example of colonial American printing. Second issue (with misprint "ony" on page 27 corrected to "only").
Among the 16 books he printed, Franklin's edition of Cicero's Cato Major is the only one that wasn't an English reprint. 'Only once did [Franklin] publish an original, full-sized book at his own expense, James Logan's translation of Cicero's Cato Major. He printed it in large type on creamy paper to flatter the Quaker grandee and to show off his own prowess as a printer' (Benjamin Franklin In Search of a Better World, p. 79). 'Next to the almanacs the Cato Major is probably Franklin's best known publication: many think it his most handsome piece of printing, and for a large number of important collectors [...] it was the only Franklin imprint worth having in their collections' (Miller). The text and notes are by the most learned American in the colonies, James Logan (1674-1751), the Philadelphia scientist, statesman, bibliophile and friend of Franklin. The Cato Major followed upon Logan's translation of Cicero's Moral Distichs, printed by Franklin in 1734 (Miller 99). This example of the first edition is the second issue, with the misprint "ony" on page 27 corrected to "only."
Green and Stallybrass, Benjamin Franklin: Writer and Printer, pp. 71-73; Church 949; Evans 5361; Hildeburn 868; Miller 347; Sabin 13040.