Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Printing History & Book Arts > 7. Benjamin Franklin

7.  Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790).  Composing stick. RBML, Typographic Realia

This composing stick may have been purchased in France in the 1780s by Benjamin Franklin while he was serving as United States minister to France. During this period, Franklin had his own private press in his house at Passy, outside of Paris. He used his press to produce leaflets, broadsides, and even passports for American citizens. Made of wood, the composing stick has a head, knee, and rail faced with brass, and uses the slotted knee and screw system, standard at the time, to fix the length of the line of type being set. According to Henry Lewis Bullen, who acquired it for the American Type Founders Company Library and Museum, it was used by Franklin and his grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache.

Purchased with the American Type Founders Company Library & Museum, 1941

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