1799 · Philadelphia
Williams (1750–1815) was a great-nephew of Benjamin Franklin. When he was 20 years old his father, a Boston merchant, sent him to England to handle some of the family's business ventures. There he continued his studies begun at Harvard and did some of his studying under the guidance of Franklin, who was also in London (as agent in England for Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts); Ben took Williams on as his private secretary, instilled in him scientific curiosity, and introduced him to England's scientific and philosophical salons. They separated during the outbreak of the American Revolution but reunited in London after the peace was signed.
Williams and Franklin returned to America in 1785 and Williams settled in Philadelphia two years later after completing his studies at Harvard. The two remained close until Franklin's death and collaborated on several projects and experiments. Williams continued as a businessman, served as an associate judge in the court of common pleas, and late in life was the first superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy.
In the book at hand the first essay on the Gulf Stream is by Franklin; the second, with a divisional-title "Directions for using the thermometer in navigation," is by Williams. The objectives of the essays were to map the Gulf Stream, study it scientifically, and to show how it could be a significant aid in navigation, especially for avoiding sandbars and other submerged natural hazards. => The map illustrates four commercial seaways between England and the US (New York, Boston, and Virginia), as well as the Gulf Stream and its temperature at various locations.
In sum, this is a classic work of early American scientific investigation and discovery, as reflected by Thomas Jefferson's having included it in his library.
Provenance: Presented to the Library Company of Philadelphia (as per the library's bookplate); deaccessioned in the 1950s and sold to Scribner's, with the remanants of the Scribner's catalogue description pasted to the front pastedown. In private collections since then.
Evans 36722; ESTC W7573; Sabin 104300; Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library. of Thomas Jefferson, 649; Wroth, American Contributions to Navigation, pp. 28-31; Rink, Technical Americana, 3893. On Williams, see: Dictionary of American Biography, XX, 280–82, or the American National Biography Online. Late 19th-century dark brown half calf with marbled paper sides; rubbed and with white specks (paint spatter?). Staining to title-leaf and early leaves; complete with both the printed errata on p. 98 and the pasted errata slip on p. [v]. => A good to very good copy with almost unbeatable provenance. (Inventory #: 36370)