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Franklin Book Program Collection at the Library of Congress

This research guide will assist researchers navigate the items in multiple languages (i.e., Arabic, Bengali, Indonesian, and Persian, among others) in the Franklin Book Program Collection.


Franklin Book Programs, Inc., a private non-profit corporation, was established in 1952 and continued until 1978 as a joint-venture between the American Library Association's International Relations Committee and publishers from the American Book Publishers Council Foreign Trade Committee. The expressed purpose of the initiative was to "assist developing countries in the creation, production, distribution, and use of books and other educational materials" ("Gift Aids Center For the Book," News from the Library of Congress, January 10, 1979 - PDF, 742KB). The program involved approximately fifteen countries and as many languages. Over the course of more than two decades, Franklin Book Programs helped facilitate the publication of approximately 3,000 titles in languages such as Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Chinese, English, Hausa, Igbo, Indonesian, Malay, Persian, Pushtu, Urdu, and Yoruba.

The start-up costs for the Franklin Book Program were underwritten by the International Information Administration (later to become the United States Information Agency). The early formation of the Franklin Book Program was initiated under the leadership of Francis R. St. John (Brooklyn Public Library), Verner Clapp (Library of Congress), Luther Evans (Library of Congress), Dan M. Lacy (International Information Agency), and Datus C. Smith Jr. (Princeton University Press). Datus C. Smith served as inaugural president of the Franklin Books Program. Under Smith, a set of core objectives of the program were established as follows:

  1. To strengthen the position of the U.S. and the free world, and to preserve world peace
  2. To increase the foreign distribution of American Books
  3. To help the peoples of the Middles East, and thus to further the welfare of mankind

(Objectives quoted in Robbins, Louise, "Publishing American Values: The Franklin Book Programs as Cold War Cultural Diplomacy," Library Trends, 2007. Original source not cited)

While such objectives clearly convey an early emphasis on the Middle East, the program quickly expanded to include a focus on Latin American and South, Southeast, and East Asian countries as well.

The Franklin Book Program was undoubtedly a product of the Cold War era, and internal memos from archived documents clearly articulate objectives additional to those made explicit by Smith. For example, one discussed intention of the program was to counter so-called "communist" charges that the United States lacked any substantive cultural contributions beyond the industrious production of atomic weaponry and automobiles. By most accounts, Smith and other members of the Franklin Book Program leadership tended to downplay any outright propagandist intentions in favor of their expressed advocacy for nurturing the mutual interests that the United States held in common with other countries. Such an approach not only served to temper political rhetoric associated with the program, but also helped to ensure local support in its countries of operation.

Although established as a U.S. sponsored initiative, the Franklin Book Program placed great emphasis on local values and collaboration in the countries with which it engaged. Local staff were hired to work in the field offices and local publishing houses were utilized for book printing and binding. The program also made an effort to utilize carefully chosen and highly qualified in-country contacts to translate, edit, and write introductions for its books. While decisions about which texts to translate were left to the discretion of hired staff in the local countries, such selections were made from a list of titles that had been pre-screened by the International Information Administration. Today, archived Franklin Book Program documents, memos and publications can be found at the Library of Congress, the University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Early book lists of each language were sent with the collection to the Library of Congress from the Franklin Book Program. Links to these lists are listed below. These lists do not accurately reflect the holdings at the Library and should be referenced as heritage documents. For accurate information as to the books and languages held by the Library, please refer to the tables under the individual language pages of this research guide.

Some titles have more than one copy. These copies are signified with the letter "R" following the book number. The Arabic title "ʻAllamatnī al-ḥayāh", a translation of the English work "This I believe" by Edward Murrow, is one example of this. The record for the first copy, "A.1", is different from the record of the second copy, "A.1R". For the sake of brevity, this guide includes the records of only the first copy.

At the Library of Congress, Franklin Book Program materials are located in various reading rooms. Researchers can access books in Bangla (Bengali), Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, and Urdu in the Asian Reading Room. Books in Arabic, Armenian, Persian, Turkish, and English (from Nigeria) are accessible in the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room. Books in Portuguese and Spanish are accessible in the Hispanic Reading Room.

In addition to the original accession lists, the original card catalog cards are available in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room.


Franklin Book Program Original Accession Lists

Please note: The Library of Congress employs the use of the LC Romanization Tables for transcribing non-Roman script languages. For assistance searching for a particular title in specific language, please contact the requisite reading room for assistance through Ask a Librarian.

Other Materials at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has over 20 research centers that provide both guidance and a physical space for users to interact with collection items based on subject (e.g., law) and format (e.g., maps, photographs). Links to titles of publications and collection items on this page will retrieve fuller bibliographic information from the Library of Congress Online Catalog. For specific questions or assistance using the Library's resources, use our Ask a Librarian service to contact a reference librarian.