JS, Letter, , Susquehanna Co., PA, to , [, NY], 22 Oct. 1829. Featured version copied [between ca. 27 Nov. 1832 and ca. Jan. 1833] in JS Letterbook 1, p. 9; handwriting of ; JS Collection, CHL. For more complete source information, see the source note for JS Letterbook 1.
JS wrote this letter from , Pennsylvania, to , who was overseeing the printing of the Book of Mormon in , New York. Four months earlier, on 11 June 1829, JS had obtained a copyright for the book, and after he and negotiated with local printers, Harris mortgaged his farm on 25 August to cover the cost of printing. By early September, , publisher of Palmyra’s Wayne Sentinel, began printing the pages, assisted by compositor John H. Gilbert. Oliver Cowdery made a second copy of the Book of Mormon manuscript and, assisted by , delivered the copied pages to the printer in twenty-four-page bundles. Just weeks after printing began, JS left Palmyra for his home in Harmony, arriving on 4 October.
This may have been JS’s first trip back to since late May, though he may have visited in July or August to tend to planting and harvesting on his farm. His journey from in October may have been undertaken in order to tell others about the publication of the Book of Mormon. This letter explained that his trip to Harmony was “prosperous” and that many were requesting books once they were printed. JS explained that the “minds of the people are very much excited” at his obtaining a copyright and at the prospect of having an actual book in their hands. His news about a copyright and progress on the printing may also have appealed to individuals interested in purchasing the books in bulk. For instance, , who according to the letter was interested in purchasing five or six hundred dollars’ worth of books, needed the copyright to protect his potential investment. The copyright protected the book’s market value by legally barring printers from publishing the manuscript without JS’s permission.
JS also urged to be faithful in the “discharge of evry duty,” the principal of which involved overseeing the printing of the book. JS no doubt expected Cowdery’s response to contain an update on the publication process. Followers of JS in the area welcomed the letter, and Cowdery wrote JS that “it was gladly received by us all[.] we rejoice to hear that you are well and we also rejoice to hear that you have a prospect of obtaining Some mony.”
Indenture, Martin Harris to Egbert B. Grandin, Wayne Co., NY, 25 Aug. 1829, Wayne Co., NY, Mortgage Records, vol. 3, pp. 325–326, microfilm 479,556, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. For a later account of the negotiations, see “Recent Progress of the Mormons,” Albany Evening Journal, 31 July 1854, ; see also “Prospect of Peace with Utah,” Albany Evening Journal, 19 May 1858, ; and “From the Troy Times,” Albany Evening Journal, 21 May 1858, .
John H. Gilbert, Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892, photocopy, CHL; see also Skousen, Printer’s Manuscript, 3, 31–33.
Gilbert, John H. Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892. Photocopy. CHL. MS 9223.
Skousen, Royal, ed. The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Entire Text in Two Parts. Part 1, Copyright, 1830 Preface, 1 Nephi 1:0–Alma 17:26. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001.
See JS History, vol. A-1, 21–34. Historical sources lack sufficient detail or consistency to determine whether JS’s early October return to his home was the first time he had been back since leaving five months earlier to finish the translation or whether it was a subsequent return.
Respected sir I would in form you that I arrived at home on sunday morning the 4th. after having a prosperous journy, and found all well the people are all friendly to <us> except a few who are in opposition to evry thing unless it is something that is axactly like themselves and two of our most formadable persacutors are now under censure and are cited to a tryal trial in the church for crimes which if true are worse than all the Gold Book business. we do not rejoice in the affliction of our enimies but we shall be glad to have truth prevail[.] there begins to be a great call for our books in this country the minds of the people are very much excited when they find that there is a copy right obtained and that there is really books about to be printed I have bought a horse of and want some one to come after it as soon as convenient has a prospect of getting five or six hundred dollars he does not know certain that he can get it but he is a going to try and if he can get the money he wants to pay it in immediately for books we want to hear from you and know how you prosper in the good work, give our best respects to & and all our brothers and Sisters to and all the company concerned tell them that our prayers are put up daily for them that they may be prospered in evry, good word and work and that they may be preserved from sin here and and from the consequen[c]e of sin here after and now dear brother be faithful in the discharge of evry duty looking for the reward of the righteous and now may God of his infinite mercy keep an<d> preserve us spotless untill his coming and receive us all to rest with him in eternal repose through the attonement of Christ our Lord Amen
By fall 1829, it was well known in the region that JS claimed to have plates and to be translating them. In June 1829 the Wayne Sentinel reported on the rumors surrounding the translation of the “Golden Bible” and explained that “most people entertain an idea that the whole matter is the result of a gross imposition and a grosser superstition. It is pretended that it will be published as soon as the translation is completed.” Jonathan Hadley of the Palmyra Freeman also reported that by early August 1829, JS’s translation of the plates was “generally known and spoken of as the ‘Golden Bible.’” The Freeman incredulously reported JS’s claims: “Now it appears not a little strange that there should have been deposited in this western world, and in the secluded town of Manchester, too, a record of this description: and still more so, that a person like this Smith (very illiterate) should have been gifted by inspiration to find and interpret it.” Newspapers as far away as Ohio reprinted this denunciation of the “Golden Bible.” (News item, Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 26 June 1829, ; “Golden Bible,” Palmyra (NY) Freeman, 11 Aug. 1829, , italics in original; see also, for example, “Golden Bible,” Niagara Courier [Lockport, NY], 27 Aug. 1829, ; “Golden Bible,” Rochester [NY] Daily Advertiser and Telegraph, 31 Aug. 1829, ; “Golden Bible,” Painesville [OH] Telegraph, 22 Sept. 1829, ; and “Golden Bible,” Salem [MA] Gazette, 2 Oct. 1829, .)
Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.
Palmyra Freeman. Palmyra, NY. 1828–1829.
Niagara Courier. Lockport, NY. 1827–1834.
Rochester Daily Advertiser and Telegraph. Rochester, NY. 1826–1829.
This line indicated that Oliver Cowdery was the addressee of the letter. Although Cowdery generally signed his name “Oliver Cowdery” or “O. Cowdery,” he also sometimes used “Oliver H P Cowdery” but never explained what either initial stood for.