Front Page Titles (by Subject) DXLIX: TO AN ENGRAVER 1 - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775
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DXLIX: TO AN ENGRAVER 1 - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. VI (Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775).
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TO AN ENGRAVER1
London, 3 November, 1773.
I was much pleased with the specimens you so kindly sent me of your new art of engraving. That on the china is admirable. No one would suppose it any thing but painting. I hope you meet with all the encouragement you merit and that the invention will be, what inventions seldom are, profitable to the inventor.
Now we are speaking of inventions; I know not who pretends to that of copper-plate engravings for earthen-ware and I am not disposed to contest the honor with anybody as the improvement in taking impressions not directly from the plate, but from printed paper applicable by that means to other than flat forms, is far beyond my first idea. But I have reason to apprehend, that I might have given the hint on which that improvement was made; for, more than twenty years since, I wrote to Dr. Mitchell from America, proposing to him the printing of square tiles, for ornamenting chimneys from copper plates, describing the manner in which I thought it might be done, and advising the borrowing from the booksellers the plates that had been used in a thin folio, called Moral Virtue Delineated for the purpose.
The Dutch Delft-ware tiles were much used in America, which are only or chiefly Scripture histories, wretchedly scrawled. I wished to have those moral prints which were originally taken from Horace’s poetical figures, introduced on tiles, which, being about our chimneys, and constantly in the eyes of children when by the fireside, might give parents an opportunity, in explaining them, to impress moral sentiments; and I gave expectations of great demand for them if executed. Dr. Mitchell wrote to me, in answer, that he had communicated my scheme to several of the principal artists in the earthen way about London, who rejected it as impracticable; and it was not till some years after that I first saw an enamelled snuff-box, which I was sure was from a copper plate, though the curvature of the form made me wonder how the impression was taken.
I understand the china work in Philadelphia is declined by the first owners. Whether any others will take it up and continue it, I know not.
Mr. Banks is at present engaged in preparing to publish the botanical discoveries of his voyage. He employs ten engravers for the plates, in which he is very curious, so as not to be quite satisfied in some cases with the expression given by either the graver, etching, or mezzotinto, particularly where there is a woolliness, or a multitude of small points, on a leaf. I sent him the largest of the specimens you sent, containing a number of sprigs. I have not seen him since, to know whether your manner would not suit some of his plants better than the more common methods. With great esteem, I am, sir, etc.,
[1 ]The name of the engraver is not contained in the manuscript, from which the letter has been transcribed.