Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2017 Issue

Record Price of $35 Million Paid for Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon

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Printer's manuscript in early 20th century photo (LDS Church photo).

A record sale in the books and manuscripts field was completed late last month. A private sale between two churches saw the printer's manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon sold for $35 million. It surpassed the previous record of $30.8 million paid by Microsoft's Bill Gates for Leonardo da Vinci's 16th century manuscript notebook Codex Leicester in 1994.

 

The printer's manuscript is the earliest, virtually complete copy of the Book of Mormon (it is missing only three lines). The original manuscript, dictated to scribes by church founder Joseph Smith, Jr., was placed by him in the cornerstone of Nauvoo House in 1841. When removed decades later, most of it had been destroyed by water. Other parts were snipped off as relics over the years. The result is that only 28% of it remains, housed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in Salt Lake City.

 

The printer's manuscript copy was created at Smith's behest by Oliver Cowdery. It was delivered to printer E. B. Grandin of Palmyra, New York, in 1830, and used to set the type for the first edition. However, Cowdery retained the printer's copy. In 1850, shortly before he died, Cowdery gave it to David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon. The printer's manuscript remained in Whitmer's family until sold by his grandson in 1903 to the Community of Christ (then known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). The 1903 purchase price for the printer's manuscript and various other documents was $2,500.

 

The recent sale was from the Community of Christ to the LDS Church. For those not familiar with the former Reorganized Church, the Latter Day Saints were a unified group during most Joseph Smith's lifetime. Persecution and problems with neighbors moved Smith and his followers from New York to Ohio, then Missouri, and finally Nauvoo, Illinois. While there, Smith began to have issues with some of his followers as well as neighbors. While Smith was regarded as a prophet, not all believed him to be infallible. His revelation endorsing polygamy was particularly controversial, leading to a split with some church members. The dissidents published a newspaper, Smith authorized its destruction, and mobilized some followers. The Illinois Governor sent in the militia, Smith surrendered, and was sent to jail for causing a riot. Unpopular with his neighbors, a mob attacked his prison cell and Smith and his brother were murdered.

 

After that, the Church remained split. The bulk of Smith's followers went with Brigham Young. When increasing issues with neighbors forced Young and most of the Mormons to get out of Nauvoo fast, they began the legendary journey west, to found their new home in a place where they figured no one would bother them, the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. A few splinter groups remained. The Reorganized Church was one.

 

Followers of the Reorganized Church remained in the Midwest. In 1860, they named Smith's son, Joseph Smith III, as their leader. They moved around the Midwest, but eventually settled in Independence, Missouri, Joseph Smith's original Zion. Smith descendants continued to lead the Reorganized Church until late in the twentieth century. Today, the Community of Christ has followers around the world, having conducted missions like the much better known and larger LDS Church in Salt Lake City. Still, their community is sizable, their theology having a somewhat more liberal bent than that of the LDS Church.

 

One place where the two faiths are unified is in the preservation of important material common to both. There isn't anything much more important to them than this, unless someone finds the original manuscript of the Bible. Naturally, the LDS Church has a much larger collection of important material and the best facilities for its preservation. They also have access to donors of great means. The $35 million was all raised through donations. Presumably, that money will help the Community of Christ carry out its mission.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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