Graphic Arts | Rare Books and Special Collections | Princeton University Library
Unseen Hands: Women Printers, Binders and Book Designers    
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Ann Smith Franklin
American, 1696-1763

Ann Smith Franklin was the wife of the printer James Franklin and sister-in-law to Benjamin Franklin. After experiencing harsh censorship in Boston--including a jail term -- for the supposedly "wicked" articles he published in The New England Courant, James decamped for the freer atmosphere of the colony of Rhode Island. He and Ann brought the first printing press to the colony and published its first newspaper, The Rhode Island Gazette. When James died in 1735, Ann was left a widow, with five young children to support, at the age of thirty-nine.

She seems to have learned printing soon after her marriage in 1723. Although she did only commercial job work in her first year of widowhood, she soon expanded her repertoire, reviving the profitable Rhode Island Almanack and becoming official printer to the colony. In 1745 she undertook her largest commission, five hundred copies of a folio edition of the Acts and Laws of Rhode Island. Princeton's copy is bound in its original marbled papers. The volume also includes another item printed in her official capacity, the colony's charter granted by Charles II.

Acts and Laws, of his Majesty's Colony of Rhode-Island..., printed by Ann Smith Franklin

Acts and Laws, of his Majesty's Colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence-Plantations, in New-England, in America, Newport, Rhode-Island: Printed by the Widow Franklin, and to be Sold at the Town-School-House [sic], 1745.

The title page woodcut shows the arms of the colony.

Rare Books Division, the Miriam Y. Holden Collection on the History of Women

Other works in the exhibition:

  • The Charter Granted by His Majesty King Charles II to the Governor and Company of the English Colony of Rhode-Island and Providence-Plantations, in New-England in America, Newport, Rhode-Island: Printed by the Widow Franklin, and to be Sold at the Town School-House, 1744.

Princeton University Library, Graphic Arts Collection
Rebecca W. Davidson, Curator of Graphic Arts
Tel: (609) 258-3197
Last Modified: February 16, 2004