Thursday, January 21, 2010

Belated B'day Benisons, Benjamin!

How could I forget? I even wrote it down in my new 2010 "At a Glance" organizer. January 17: Benjamin Franklin's birthday. If January has a picture of Paul Revere mid-gallop on the 1, then by golly it should have one of Ben Franklin flying a kite or inspecting a page proof on the 17. And me overlooking a fellow almanacker, too. Practically the inventor of the genre. I have to admit that I haven't perused Poor Richard's Almanack, being the sort of poor scholar Ben would have written a proverb about. But I know it ran every year from 1732 to 1758, and was incredibly popular in the colonies, with print runs of 10,000 a year. And I know it contained "Lunations, Eclipses, Judgment of the Weather, Spring Tides, Planets Motions & mutual Aspects, Sun and Moon's Rising and Setting, Length of Days, Time of High Water, Fairs, Courts, and observable Days." In addition to reams of proverbs and puzzles and even serialized stories so people would buy it just to find out if Titan Leeds died on October 17 or 26.

I'm not sure Ben would have approved of the belated birthday greeting tradition, or when that tradition started. He was all about self-improvement, early to bed, early to rise, etc. On the other hand, the man trafficked in foibles, so he certainly would have understood forgetfulness. And even though he wasn't the one who coined "Better late than never" (it was Titus Livius), it sounds like something Poor Richard might have said. So, happy 304th, Mr. Franklin: author, printer, satirist, inventor, scientist, politician, statesman, diplomat, and almanacker, born a subway ride away on Milk Street in downtown Boston. Rock on.

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