Skip to main content

Yale Collection of Benjamin Franklin Manuscripts

Call Number: GEN MSS 1457
Scope and Contents

The Yale Collection of Benjamin Franklin Manuscripts contains correspondence, writings, documents, personal papers of Benjamin Franklin and his contemporaries, and ancillary research and acquisition correspondence and papers about the collection itself. The collection spans the dates 1699-1981, but the bulk of the material dates from 1740 to 1825.

The core of the collection is the manuscript portion of the William Smith Mason Collection of Benjamin Franklin, a 1935 gift to Yale University Library. The collection also includes material collected by the library after that date, including original material as well as facsimiles, transcripts, and other copies in a variety of formats, much of which was likely added to facilitate the Franklin Editorial Project. The collection therefore documents not only the life and legacy of Benjamin Franklin, but the project to edit Franklin’s papers for publication and the library’s management of the papers as a resource for that project.

Throughout this guide are references to numbers assigned by William Smith Mason, expressed in the list as M #[]. Other notes refer to “Smyth,” which is a ten-volume work by Albert Henry Smyth, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin; collected and ed., with a life and introduction (Macmillan, 1905-07).

More information about the collection may be found in the following early published descriptions of the collection:

Eddy, George Simpson. “The Mason-Franklin Collection.” The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 10, No. 4 (April 1936), pp. 65-90.

B., D. W. “The Mason-Franklin Collection.” The Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 15, No. 1 (July 1940), pp. 16-19.

Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English and French.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Yale Collection of Benjamin Franklin Manuscripts is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of William Smith Mason, 1935, with later acquisitions. Transferred from Sterling Memorial Library, 1984.


Organized into five series: Series I. Materials By, To, and About Benjamin Franklin, 1699-1828. Series II. Materials About Franklin, 1834-1958. Series III. Twentieth Century Writings About Franklin, 1923-1981. Series IV. Miscellaneous Photostats, undated. Series V. Catalog Cards and Accession Records, undated.

Related Materials

William Smith Mason papers, GEN MSS 1459.

1699 - 1981
Majority of material found within 1740 - 1825
49.86 Linear Feet ((82 boxes) + 5 broadside)
Related Names
Mason, William Smith, 1866-
Language of Materials
Language of Materials