Benjamin Franklin Bible Merchant

Recently discovered advertisement shows Benjamin Franklin as one of the top Bible merchants in early Philadelphia history. Hear his thoughts on the Holy Bible.

Benjamin Franklin Bible Merchant


* Ben Franklin was colonial Bible supplier
* Ad printed on Franklin's own printing press
* Franklin's shop sold many Christian related books
* Located on Market St. in Philadelphia, PA
* Frank DeFreitas reads thoughts on the Holy Bible


By FRANK DEFREITAS for WONDERS OF THE BIBLE
PUBLISHED: March 29, 2020 | UPDATED: April 2, 2020

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Benjamin Franklin Bible Merchant


Benjamin Franklin's advertisement for selling Bibles at his Philadelphia PA book shop.
Benjamin Franklin's advertisement for selling Bibles and various other Christian books (such as Greek New Testaments) at his Philadelphia PA book shop. CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Benjamin Franklin was an inventor, a statesman, a scholar, AND a merchant of the Holy Bible.

Hello, my name is Frank DeFreitas, and I would like to welcome you to Wonders of the Bible.

In my never ending quest to procure the most interesting and one-of-a-kind ephemera of Bible history, I recently acquired a package that contained information concerning the great American figure, Benjamin Franklin. The package was once, long ago, in the possession of a man named Edward C. Richter, who was then president of the Franklin Printing Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Noted as being founded in the year 1728.

There were several very interesting items in the collection, and all of them tied into Benjamin Franklin being one of the first, and foremost, Bible merchants in the Colonies … even before the United States of America became the United States of America.

This discovery came in a rather round-about way for me. At first, the initial item that I was interested in was a sheet of paper. This printed sheet of paper was no ordinary one. It was the final sheet of paper that was ever printed on Benjamin Franklin's famous printing press.

Benjamin Franklin's printing press was owned by Charles Richter of the Franklin Printing Company in Philadelphia, PA. It was loaned to the Franklin Institute new Memorial Rotunda in 1933.
Benjamin Franklin's printing press was owned by Charles Richter of the Franklin Printing Company in Philadelphia, PA. It was loaned to the Franklin Institute new Memorial Rotunda in 1933. CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

The connection, of course, was with the aforementioned gentleman, Mr. Richter. You see, as president of the Franklin Printing Company, he was the owner of Benjamin Franklin's printing press.

How interesting!, I thought.

Upon closer examination of the printed piece, I was able to see that it appeared to be one of Franklin's Gazettes: a periodical newspaper that he published in the Colonies. The date of its publication was May 10, 1744. And … right there in the middle of the sheet was an advertisement -- for Benjamin Franklin's own book shop. After all, it was his publication.

I took notice to all of the Bibles he offered for sale in his shop.

Now, as I found out upon further examination, this particular sheet wasn't from 1744. It was from 1933. June 16, 1933, to be exact. But there was yet another twist to the story, a twist that made it that much more interesting: It was printed on Benjamin Franklin's actual printing press.

The modern-day Franklin Printing Company was still in possession of one of Benjamin Franklin's original printing presses. The Bible advertisement was a part of the final piece printed on this press.
The modern-day Franklin Printing Company was still in possession of one of Benjamin Franklin's original printing presses. The Bible advertisement was a part of the final piece printed on this press. CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

It turns out that Edward Richter and his Franklin Printing Company was loaning Franklin's printing press to the Franklin Institute, for their new Benjamin Franklin Memorial rotunda. The reason why I know this, is because the package contained all of the correspondence: press photography, newspaper clippings, and the actual final page printed on Benjamin Franklin's printing press.

The page was given to Edward Richter as a gift during the ceremony performed at the Bellevue Stratford hotel, in Philadelphia, on June 16, 1933.

The notation on the last printed piece states: "To Mr. E.C. Richter … This is the last sheet printed on the Franklin Press before it was placed in the Franklin Memorial Museum, Dec. 23, 1933." And it was signed by an Emil Mueller on June 16, 1933.

So, by this time, I knew that everything was falling in place as to the question of authenticity.

Information handwritten on the printed piece stating that it was the last piece ever printed on Benjamin Franklin's printing press.
"To Mr. E.C. Richter: This is the last sheet printed on the Franklin Press before it was placed in the Franklin memorial Museum, Dec. 23, 1933. Bellview Stratford, June 16, 1933. Emil Mueller." CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

My main interest -- at least concerning my Wonders of the Bible collection -- was the ad placed by Benjamin Franklin for his book shop. We all know that the most important items that any place has for sale is always put in the largest type. And the largest type used by Benjamin Franklin after the header spelled out the word: BIBLES.

I am including a photo of the ad … but also allow me to mention the variety of Christian books offered in his Market Street Book Shop: Bibles of all sizes, Testaments, greek and latin testaments, pilgrim’s progress in three parts, ditto large edition, penn’s no cross no crown, buchanan’s psalms, clark’s erasmus, and certainly many others.

Yes, there were all types of books listed, covering all types of disciplines and interests, but it was of most interest -- at least to me -- that the ad had the word BIBLES printed so prominently.

I don't know what ever happened to Benjamin Franklin's printing press after its tenure at the Franklin Institute. Its possible that it still could be there today. Or, perhaps it was then passed on and placed into the collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. I have heard that they have a Benjamin Franklin press there. Could it be this one? It's possible.

I do know that it is nothing at all like the working printing presses that are currently on display at Benjamin Franklin's print shop in Philadelphia, known as Franklin Court. And the photos that I have included on this web page in conjunction with this podcast show clearly.

The author, Frank DeFreitas, with the Benjamin Franklin printing press sheet, showing the advertisement for Franklin's Philadelphia Market Street Book Shop, and his selection of Bibles and other Christian publications.
The author, Frank DeFreitas, with the Benjamin Franklin printing press sheet, showing the advertisement for Franklin's Philadelphia Market Street Book Shop, and his selection of Bibles and other Christian publications. CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

In closing, I would like to read an excerpt from one of Benjamin Franklin's own writings, and it is titled: A book of gems. Choice selections from the writings of Benjamin Franklin. Published in 1879. As follows:

NO man should go to the Bible, or the God of the Bible, to teach him what man is, or what he should be; but he should go to the Bible to learn what he is, what he ought to be, and what he ultimately shall be. He should not go to the Bible to show what it should teach, but to learn what it does teach, for to this we shall all come in the end, whether it is congenial with our desires or not. We intend, therefore, to maintain it as it is, whether the number in favor of it is small or great. We intend to maintain the old distinction between saint and sinner, vice and virtue, good and bad, with the same meaning attached to them, regardless of all consequences. We shall speak of men being saved and lost, happy and miserable, justified and condemned, with the same ideas attached to the terms as before, and sustained by all sound rules of interpretation, whether it shall be considered sense or foolishness. We shall continue to use the Bible terms: rewards and punishments, life and death, heaven and hell, in the same sense as we have been wont to do, knowing, as we do, that we are supported by the whole canon of sound criticism, and we most solemnly admonish all who fear God, against the glosses of that sickening and supercilious affectation, that induces any man, for one moment, to hesitate to declare to his fellow man, in the most faithful manner, the terrible threatenings of the Almighty against the impenitent.

Information pertaining to the printing of the Benjamin Franklin sheet. It was originally printed in 1744, and reprinted, on the Franklin Press, in 1933.
Information pertaining to the printing of the Benjamin Franklin sheet. It was originally printed in 1744 -- and reprinted -- on the Franklin Press, "a cherished relic of the Franklin Printing Company", in the year 1933. It was the final piece of paper ever printed on Benjamin Franklin's famous printing press. CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Let no preacher shrink, in this age of sinfulness and pride; let no man of God be deterred by the ridicule of Universalists, by low wit of skeptics, or the vulgar mocking of atheists, from declaring the terrors of the Lord, for he says, "The Lord shall judge his people." "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." "With lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad, and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life." "It is better to enter into life having one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched." "The rich man died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment." Such is but a tithe of what abounds of this description throughout the New Testament. Is he a friend to his God or his fellow man, who knows such language to abound in the word of God, and shuns to declare it to those who hear him?

The author, Frank DeFreitas, and William Hahn of Christ Evangelical Congregational Church in Allentown, PA examine the Benjamin Franklin document in the current Wonders of the Bible exhibition room. The exhibit specializes in the history of the Bible in early colonial Pennsylvania regional history.
The author, Frank DeFreitas, and William J. Hahn of Christ Evangelical Congregational Church in Allentown, PA examine the Benjamin Franklin document in the current Wonders of the Bible exhibit room. This exhibit specializes in the world history of the Bible, with a focus on the early colonial Pennsylvania region. (NOTE: The exhibit, originally running through Christmas 2020, is currently suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please observe all current regulations, keep the Faith, and stay safe.) CLICK / TAP PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Once again, my name is Frank DeFreitas, and may God Bless you Today and Every Day, AND, REMEMBER, to always love others, just as Jesus Christ loves YOU!


"Science is the study of the physical manifestations of God in action."
-- Frank DeFreitas (Click Here for BIO)
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