JSPP-PrintersHeaderThe following is adapted from “Publishing the Printer’s Manuscript,” by Megan Michaels of the Church History Department.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project has released its eleventh volume.  Revelations and Translations, Volume 3: Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon is available for purchase today.

The release of this volume is a landmark event not only in regards to the content, which includes the first full-color photographs and color-coded transcripts of each page, but also in the collaboration between historians and archivists of the Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Printer’s Manuscript has been owned and preserved by the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for over 100 years. In the 1970s, the churches exchanged microfilm of important historical documents, including fragments of the original manuscript and the complete printer’s manuscript.  Now, for the first time and with the generous permission of the Community of Christ, the Joseph Smith Papers is able to publish the full manuscript with full-color photographs.

In anticipation of this historical publication, we asked the JSP team for some little-known facts about the manuscript:

1. There are two early manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. The “original manuscript” is the manuscript that was created while Joseph Smith was actually dictating the text of the Book of Mormon. That manuscript was inscribed by at least seven scribes—Martin Harris, Emma Smith, Samuel Smith, Reuben Hale, Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, and Christian Whitmer. The original manuscript was placed in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841, where it suffered severe water damage. Less than 30 percent of the original manuscript survives, but most of the fragments are held by the Church History Library. The printer’s manuscript was a security copy made from the original Book of Mormon manuscript. It was taken to the Palmyra print shop of E. B. Grandin to set type for the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. The printer’s manuscript has been in the custody of the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) since 1903, and it is complete with the exception of three missing lines at the bottom of one page.

2. The printer’s manuscript was used to prepare other Book of Mormon editions as well. Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith marked up the printer’s manuscript in preparation for the publication of the second edition of the Book of Mormon (1837). The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also used the manuscript to publish an early-twentieth-century edition of the Book of Mormon.

3. David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was a long-time custodian of the manuscript. As he received visitors desiring to hear his testimony of the Book of Mormon, he would often show them the manuscript and told of several incidences of the manuscript being miraculously protected.

4. The manuscript was once offered for sale to the LDS Church, but leaders felt that the manuscript held little value given the many editions of the Book of Mormon that had been published. A few years later, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints purchased the manuscript, preserving it for their future generations and sharing it with scholars of all religious backgrounds.

5. Preservation: The printer’s manuscript is housed in the Community of Christ Library-Archives, Independence, MO.  In 1997, the manuscript was brought to Salt Lake City.  The manuscript was cleaned and encapsulated in Mylar for preservation purposes.

6. Editing marks: The manuscript contains editing marks by compositor John H. Gilbert in preparation for the 1830 edition. Joseph Smith’s then made changes to the manuscript for the 1837 edition of the Book of Mormon and his editing marks visible in the manuscript.

7. Unknown Scribe:  While the Printer’s Manuscript is mostly in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, it also includes the handwriting of Hyrum Smith, and an unknown scribe.   Scholars have been unable to positively identify the handwriting of this unknown scribe.

8. First Printing of Book of Mormon Text: Without authorization, a Palmyra New York newspaper printed portions of he Book of Mormon before the book was completed.  This printing helps scholars understand how much of the book had been printed by 22 January 1830.

This addition to the Joseph Smith Papers series is a significant milestone for historians.

Learn more in the article “Church History Department Releases Book of Mormon Printer’s Manuscript in New Book.”

Editor’s note: For this volume, the Joseph Smith Papers project collaborated with the Community of Christ. Watch this video where Steven E. Snow and Ronald E. Romig explain how good relations between the two parties led to the volume’s publication.

Video: “Collaborating to Publish the Printer’s Manuscript

Video: “The Story of the Book of Mormon Printer’s Manuscript

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