A fine and rare partially-restored copy of the 1830 first edition of the Book of Mormon: an Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates taken from the Plates of Nephi, the sacred text of the Latter Day Saints movement and most important original religious work in American history. Published in Palmyra, New York by E. B. Grandin, for the author. This edition notes that the work is “by Joseph Smith, Junior, / Author and Proprietor.” on the title page and is the only edition of the Book of Mormon to do so. All subsequent editions list Smith as the translator. Holding the earliest unique writings of the Latter Day Saints movement, practitioners regard it as scripture as well as a historical record of God and his interactions with the ancient people in the Americas. Joseph Smith said of the book, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.”
According to Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon was engraved upon golden plates in “reformed Egyptian” and buried in Cumorah Hill (in present-day Wayne County, New York) by Moroni, a Nephite prophet and historian. Smith had a vision of Moroni who came to Smith as an angel on September 21, 1823. The heavenly messenger instructed Smith to go to the hill the following day, though he was forbidden to take possession of them, he reportedly found the metal plates “having the appearance of gold.” He returned each year until September 22, 1827, when he was allowed to take possession of the plates.
After moving to Harmony, Pennsylvania in December 1827, he began to translate the plates. In February 1828, his neighbor Martin Harris began to assist as a scribe. At the behest of his wife Lucy, Harris requested that he borrow the newly translated pages, and she allegedly stole and burned them. Smith records that he lost his ability to translate and Moroni had taken the plates until the pages were returned. In 1829, he resumed translating with Oliver Cowdery, a teacher who sought Smith out after hearing of his work. Copyright was secured on June 11, 1829 at the office of Richard R. Lansing and the translation was completed on July 1, 1829.
The route to publication was not an easy one. Egbert B. Grandin of Palmyra was first approached by Smith, but he declined as it was a large work (over 500 pages) and was convinced that the growing criticism of Smith might lead to a boycott of the book. Smith then approached two Rochester, New York publishers, Thurlow Weed, who twice refused, and Elihu F. Marshall who agreed. The original publisher, Grandin, upon being re-approached by Smith and Martin Harris, changed his mind and agreed to publish the book. Harris mortgaged his farm to provide the $3,000 needed for the printing of 5,000 copies, a large print run for the time and place. It was first sold for $1.25 to $1.75 in the bookstore of the publisher E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York on March 26, 1830. The building still stands and is the site of the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site. It was two weeks later on April 6, 1830, that Smith organized the Church of Christ, which would later be known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The book is divided into smaller books titled after the main narrator or leader and arranged mostly in chronological order, with the “Words of Mormon” and the “Book of Ether” being exceptions. Also included are written accounts by eleven people who also stated they saw the golden plates: “The Testimony of the Three Witnesses” (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) as well as “And Also the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses” (Chirstian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith). These are included on the recto and verso of a single leaf included after the main text.
There were several printing variations among the first edition. This copy has page iv printed correctly, the “97” on page 97 printed poorly, “exceeding great” is spelled correctly on p. 207, page 212 is misprinted as p. 122, p. 487 is printed correctly, page 575 has “elder or priest”. (Flake, 595) The paper has foxing throughout, which is typical of this publication, and the edges are flecked blue. The book retains its original spine, spine label, and back leather board. The hinges have been reinforced on both the exterior and interior and the front board has been replaced. The first front flyleaf has a bookseller’s pencil notation reading “Joseph Smith / Price 1 dollar”. The second flyleaf has “Mrs. G. C. Pugh” written in pencil. Housed in a custom cloth-covered clamshell case.
iv [ 5 ]-588 [ 2 ] p.
Provenance Mary Virginia Pugh (née Snyder, 1860-1924, Mrs. G. C. Pugh, whose name appears on the front flyleaf) to Claude Freeman Pugh (1881-1936) to Anne Virginia Pugh (b. 1908) to present owner
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- foxing throughout, which is typical of this publication.
- slight tear in gutter between the front flyleaf and title page.
- stain in lower left quadrant of last leaf.
- binding has been repaired with replacement front board and reinforced hinges on both the exterior and interior.
- cracking, rubbing, and edgewear to original spine and back board.