Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin dedicated himself to the printing trade for his entire life, from working as an apprentice for his brother to becoming the official printer of both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Before he founded his first printing shop in his early 20s, Franklin came to Philadelphia and found work with Samuel Keimer, the founder of the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Franklin’s first foray into professional printing has just been acquired by the University of Pennsylvania—which Franklin founded in 1740—and will be on display until February, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The broadside Franklin printed, a poem written by Keimer, signified his arrival in the Philadelphia printing world.
The poem was an elegy for the 28-year-old Quaker poet Aquila Rose, who died in 1723. Keimer couldn’t actually print, though he could set type, and the 17-year-old Franklin set up his press. Printing the poem led to Keimer offering him a full-time job.
The piece acquired by the university is the only known original copy to survive the centuries, and was thought to be lost until just a few years ago, when it was discovered in a scrapbook created in the 19th century. It will go on display at the university library until February 10. A digital copy is also available online.