Ben Franklin, printer

Today is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who was, as the Firesign Theatre put it, “the only President of the United States… who was never President of the United States.”

Instead, when Franklin died in 1790, he was world-famous as a scientist and a diplomat, but he named himself in his will as simply “Benjamin Franklin, Printer“. And much earlier, in 1728, Franklin composed his own mock epitaph which read:

The Body of
B. Franklin
Like the Cover of an old Book,
Its Contents torn out,
And stript of its Lettering and Gilding,
Lies here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be wholly lost:
For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more,
In a new & more perfect Edition,
Corrected and Amended
By the Author.
He was born on January 6, 1706.
Died 17

Franklin is a personal hero of mine, with an intelligence and inventiveness that sent ripples into the future of printing and publishing, reaching to our current time. The visionary leaders of Quark, Adobe, Aldus, Macromedia, and many other companies, owe at least some of their success to the efforts of this great man — and printer.

Here are a few recommended resources for learning more about our birthday boy:

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Jay Nelson is the editorial director of, and the editor and publisher of Design Tools Monthly. He’s also the author of the QuarkXPress 8 and QuarkXPress 7 training titles at, as well as the training videos Quark includes in the box with QuarkXPress 7 . In addition, Jay writes regularly for Macworld and Photoshop User magazines and speaks at industry events.