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Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon

Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon

Dates: 1830

A photocopy of the printer's copy of the Book of Mormon, 466 pp. Scribal copy of entire text of the Book of Mormon; each page indicates the relative portion of the volume.

  • Extent: 1 box (0.5 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Cowdery, Oliver
  • Call Number: MSS 2356
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602; http://sc.lib.byu.edu/
  • Access Restrictions: No photocopying
Languages and Scripts
This collection contains a photocopy of the original manuscript of the printer’s copy of the Book of Mormon, written in the hand of Oliver Cowdery. It contains the text of the Book of Mormon in its entirety, including the Preface, the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses, and the copyright information. At the top of each page is an indication of what part of the Book of Mormon, both the LDS (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) version and the RLDS (Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) version, is contained on that page. The photocopy is 466 pages and has been divided into folders of about 25 pages each.
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
In the fall of 1827, Joseph Smith received the plates that would come to be known as the Book of Mormon. By the end of that year, Joseph had begun to translate the plates, but the work progressed very slowly. In the early part of 1828, Martin Harris became a scribe for Joseph and the work began to move more quickly. By June, 116 pages of the translation were complete. Due to the overbearing curiosity of Harris’ wife, Joseph allowed Harris to take the 116 pages and show them to her. The manuscript, however, was stolen. After the incident, Joseph became much more careful concerning the translation and insisted that a second copy be made to send to the printer so he could keep the original in his possession at all times. Oliver Cowdery, who had become Joseph’s chief scribe in April of 1829, was the one appointed to make the printer’s copy. The translation was finished by the first of July, 1829. Joseph had not had much luck in finding a publisher to print the book. He first approached Egbert B. Grandin of Palmyra, but Grandin declined. Next, he tried Thurlow Weed, a printer in Rochester, New York but was declined twice. Finally, Elihu F. Marshall, of Rochester, agreed to print the manuscript, but before the contract was signed Joseph approached E.B. Grandin once again. This time Grandin agreed to publish the manuscript. A contract was signed 25 August 1829 for the printing of 5000 copies of the Book of Mormon at the cost of $3000. Martin Harris mortgaged his farm in order to help pay for the printing costs. Grandin recruited John H. Gilbert to be the typesetter for the project. Work began in August of 1829, with Gilbert doing the typesetting and much of the presswork. The original manuscript, containing almost no punctuation, appeared as if it were one long narrative, so Gilbert added the punctuation as he did the typesetting. The book was printed 16 pages at a time and the first edition was completed by March 1830. The original manuscript remained in Joseph Smith’s possession. In 1841, it was deposited in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. Inside the stone, however, the manuscript was not fully sealed against the damp Mississippi River climate. Forty years later, the manuscript was retrieved, much of it having been damaged or disintegrated.
Preferred Citation
Initial Citation: MSS 2356; Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon; 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following Citations: MSS 2356, LTPSC.
Custodial History
This photocopy of the original manuscript of the printer’s copy of the Book of Mormon was made from the original, by Scott Faulring, for Brigham Young University. The original manuscript is currently in possession of the Community of Christ Church, Independence, Missouri.
Acquisition Information
Created; Scott Faulring.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. Salt Lake City: Western Epics, 1971.Wood, Wilford C. Joseph Smith Begins His Work. Utah: Deseret News Press, 1958.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online. http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/MSS2356.xml
Related Material
Anderson, Richard Lloyd. Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981. Jessee, Dean C. The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript. BYU Studies Spring, 1970: 259-278. Vogel, Dan. Early Mormon Documents. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996-2000. Welch, John W. and Tim Rathbone. The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information. Provo, Utah: F.A.R.M.S. Paper, 1986.
Subject Terms
Faulring, Scott H.; Smith, Joseph, Jr., 1805-1844; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Religion; Palmyra (N.Y.)
Genre / Form
Photocopies; Printers' proofs; Publications
Book of Mormon--Publication and distribution
Processing Information
Processed; David J. Whittaker & Judi Crisp; 2002.
Appraisal Information
19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts. This collection contains a photocopy of the original manuscript of the printer’s copy of the Book of Mormon, written in the hand of Oliver Cowdery. It contains the text of the Book of Mormon in it’s entirety, including the Preface, the Testimony of the Three Witnesses, the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses, and the copyright information, suppotying the subject collection focus on items that support research of Mormonism.
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by David J. Whittaker & Judi Crisp
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit 2013-08-19T10:37-0600
Finding Aid Language
Finding aid encoded in English.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

Copy made from the original Book of Mormon manuscript by Oliver Cowdery, for use by the typesetter for the first printing of the Book of Mormon (1830).

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr., was born 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, to Joseph Smith, Sr. and Luck Mack Smith. At the age of ten, he moved to Palmyra, New York, with his family, where he resided for eleven years. During that time, Joseph did not have many advantages for learning; however, his curiosity of religion began to develop greatly. In the spring of 1820, after going into some nearby woods to pray, he had a vision in which he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, he had another vision in which an angel told him about an ancient record written on gold plates. In September of 1827, Joseph received those plates. After obtaining the plates, Joseph and his wife, Emma Hale, moved to Pennsylvania, where he began translating them with Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery as his chief scribes. The first edition of the Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized shortly thereafter.

Following the publication of the Book of Mormon, the persecutions against Joseph and the Church grew even stronger. Joseph, along with the main body of the Saints, moved from New York and Pennsylvania to Kirtland, Ohio, and from there to Independence, Missouri. They were subsequently forced out of Independence as well, at which point Joseph moved the Saints to Far West, Missouri. At Far West, Joseph and other Church leaders were arrested in October of 1838 and taken to Richmond jail. This was the first of several jails Joseph would be sent to within the next six years. While Joseph was in prison, Far West was destroyed and Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, moved the Saints to Quincy, Illinois. After Joseph was released from prison, he found a place for the Saints to live in Commerce, Illinois, which he renamed Nauvoo in 1839. Nauvoo grew into a prosperous city and became the second largest in Illinois. After enduring more hardships and persecutions while in Nauvoo, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were arrested once again, this time being taken to Carthage, Illinois. On 27 July 1844, a mob attacked Carthage jail and killed both Joseph and Hyrum.

Oliver Cowdery

Oliver Cowdery was born 3 October 1806 in Wells, Rutland, Vermont, to William Cowdery, Jr. and Rebecca Fuller. In 1825, Oliver moved to the state of New York, where his elder brothers were married and settled. He found employment as a store clerk until the winter of 1828/1829, when he began teaching in the district school in Manchester, New York. There he became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sr. He went to board at the Smith house, and while he was there learned about Joseph Smith, Jr. and the gold plates he had discovered. Oliver became very interested, and on 5 April 1829 he visited Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Joseph had fled to avoid the persecutions in New York. Two days later, Joseph asked Oliver to become a scribe for the translation of the plates. Oliver agreed and from thenceforth was the principal scribe for most of the translation of the Book of Mormon. The translation was finished by July 1829, at which time Oliver began to make a copy of the manuscript to send to the printer, E.B. Grandin.

Oliver was present with Joseph Smith on several significant occasions, such as on 15 May 1829, when John the Baptist appeared and conferred the priesthood on both Oliver and Joseph. Oliver was one of the Three Witnesses who testified to having been shown the plates by an angel in June of 1829. He was also one of the original six members of the church when it was organized on 6 April 1830.

Oliver Cowdrey married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer on 22 January 1832, in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1835, he was appointed to be the first Church recorder. He was also appointed assistant counselor to the First Presidency in September 1837. Seven months later, on 11 April 1838, he was charged before the High Council of Far West, Missouri, for several offenses against the church. The following day he was excommunicated. Oliver remained outside of the Church for ten years. In October of 1848, Oliver attended a special conference in Kanesville, Iowa, where he bore testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The following month, he was re-baptized into the Church. Oliver Cowdery died 3 March 1850 in Richmond, Missouri, in full fellowship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

John H. Gilbert

John Hulburd Gilbert was born 13 April 1802 in the state of New York. His father was Russell Gilbert and Hulburd was his mother’s maiden name. In 1824, Gilbert moved to Palmyra, New York, and began typesetting. Three years later, he married Chloe P. Thayer. In June of 1829, he was approached by E.B. Grandin, a printer who had agreed to publish the Book of Mormon for Joseph Smith, to be the typesetter for the book. Gilbert agreed and began the work in August of that year. The entire publication of the first edition of the Book of Mormon took seven months and was completed in March 1830. Gilbert continued typesetting and died in the year 1895.

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Ryan Lee
Curator - 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts