The Papers cites an article in the New Colophon, A Book-Collectors Miscellany published in 1950:
“For an exhaustive discussion of the sources, variations, and sequels of the Epitaph, see L. H. Butterfield, “B. Franklin’s Epitaph,” New Colophon, III (1950), 9–30, where eleven variants are considered. ”
This New Colophon article is beautifully available online from the Posner Memorial Library of Carnegie Mellon University as part of the Posner Memorial Collection in Electronic Format. The article describes multiple archival versions of this piece:
1. Gimbrel Holograph (B. Franklin) image reproduced here.
* Lettering & Gilding
* the work shall not be lost
* new and more elegant Edition
* Corrected and improved
2. Upcott Holograph (B.)
3. The Mason-Yale Holograph (B.)
* Lettering and Gilding
* the work shall not be wholly lost
* new & more perfect Edition
* Corrected and amended
* He was born Jan 6, 1706, Died ___ 17___
4. The Jonathan Bayard-Script Transcript (Ben:)
As this was the only holograph when more of the first name (Ben:) than the capital B, I looked further: From the Princeton Library, a commonplace book by a 1760 student at Princeton. It has two corruptions: contents worn out (instead of torn), and food for the worms instead of food for worms.
5. Stiles Transcript (B.)
6. Ames Almanack Text
7. Pennsylvania Chronicle Text
8. Benjamin Vaughan’s Text
9. William Temple Franklin’s Text
10. The Stevens Library of Congress Text (B.)
11. German Translation
12. French Translation
Antecedents, etc. – page 31
A Final Irony, page 38 (about his death)
article ends, page 39.
I was looking to see if there was a Franklin manuscript listing his first name as “Ben”, rather than “B.” or “Benjamin.” I made note of an image shown at a Smithsonian presentation with “Ben,” and have inquired to the presenter.
Thomas Kidd’s recent work, Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father, inserts a manuscript image on page 57 that appears to be Yale’s “new” manuscript mentioned in a footnote on page 22 of the New Colophon article, as it contains the incorrect birth month of June, which Butterfield mentions. This holograph has multiple early corruptions, referring to “Benjamin Franklin,” “food for the worms”, and “a new + most beautiful edition.” Kidd’s book acknowledges Yale. Butterfield summarizes it as “a complete an inexplicable hybrid.”