Note on Photographic Facsimiles, Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon

No matter the care put into transcribing a text, a gap still remains between the reader and the physical document. The use of photographic facsimiles in this volume narrows that gap but does not eliminate it. This note explains how these photographs were created and prepared for publication and identifies some of their limitations.
Creating the Photographs
The textual photographs herein were created specifically for this publication and its online counterpart by Welden C. Andersen, a lead photographer for the Publishing Services Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, onsite at the Community of Christ Library-Archives in Independence, Missouri. Andersen used a Hasselblad H3DII-39 multishot camera equipped with a Hasselblad HC 120mm f4 macro lens. By taking a sequence of four photographs, this camera captures red, green, and blue data for every pixel, whereas a single-shot camera records only one color per pixel. The four-shot technology therefore captures much more detail. The lens is optimized for extremely close focusing, allowing for images of documents that can resolve to the level of individual fibers of the paper. Each of the digital images produced by the camera comprises approximately 229 megabytes of information. Though the resolution of these images must be reduced significantly for print publication, the Community of Christ Library-Archives retains full-resolution files. A copy of these digital images is also retained by the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
In 1997, the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon was encapsulated in Mylar for preservation purposes. For fear of inadvertently damaging the manuscript, archivists and historians from the Community of Christ and the Church History Library decided not to remove the manuscript from the Mylar when it was photographed for this book in 2012. During photography, the manuscript was positioned on a low, leveled black table. Studio lights and a fabric screen were used to illuminate the subject, and a computer was attached to the camera to process and store the images. To minimize the reflection of the lights on the Mylar, Andersen placed black cardstock around the lens of the camera. The camera was positioned about four feet above the table on a camera stand. Andersen hand-focused each photograph and then remotely triggered the shutter. After ensuring the quality of the first image on the computer monitor, he made a second exposure to create a security backup copy for each image.
Andersen followed standard professional procedures to achieve the highest accuracy in color, tone, contrast, and exposure. Before photographing and any time he adjusted lighting, exposure, or document angle, he calibrated and corrected color using a color test card and color adjustment software. This eliminated any bias of the camera sensor and the light source, meaning that the colors captured in the photographs are as close as possible to the colors of the document as it exists today.
Preparing the Photographs for Print Publication
Charles M. Baird, a prepress specialist with the Publishing Services Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, prepared the images for printing. Following standard prepress methods, Baird reduced the images to fit the page size in this volume at a resolution of approximately 300 dpi and converted the images from the color format stored by the camera (red, green, and blue) to the colors used in printing (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black).
As mentioned earlier in this note, the documents featured in this volume were photographed resting on a black table. For aesthetic reasons, Baird used photo-editing software to digitally remove the table and the edges of the Mylar from the background and to add a thin shadow at the bottom of the images. Baird also digitally removed the Japanese paper that exists at the edges of some of the manuscript pages; this paper was attached to the manuscript pages during earlier conservation to prevent further wear and tear to the edges of the paper.
Except as described in this note, the textual photographs in this volume have not been altered.
Limitations of the Photographs
Even careful photographs can underplay important features of the original document. Two categories of such features are worth noting here.
First, some details described in the annotation of this volume can be seen in the original document and in the electronic images but are too small to be seen well, if at all, in the photographs printed herein (see figure 1).
Second, certain physical features obscure text of the original document. For example, the first leaf of the printer’s manuscript has been worn along the bottom edge, resulting in curling or inward folding of small portions of the page. This leaf has since been reinforced with paper backing, which obscures the text of the bottom line (see figure 2). For this and other instances of worn edges, older photographs have been consulted, including a series of photographs of the manuscript taken in 1923 by E. Hobson Tordoff, a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, when he was conserving the manuscript (see figure 3). These early-twentieth-century images are available on the Joseph Smith Papers website,
Fig. 1. This uninked vertical mark found on manuscript page 63 (between the words “endured” and “the” on the third line of this image) is similar to other marks found throughout the manuscript. These marks usually indicated ends of lines or pages in the 1830 edition and probably helped the compositor mark his place as he was setting the type.
Fig. 2. The bottom edge of page 1 of the printer’s manuscript has worn away over the years. At some point, paper backing was affixed to the edge in order to stabilize the page and prevent further deterioration.
Fig. 3. This negative-image photograph taken in 1923 shows what a page of the printer’s manuscript looked like almost one hundred years ago, before backing was added to the bottom edge of the page. Other pages throughout the manuscript also show signs of damage. By consulting with the 1923 photographs, the editors of this volume have been able to recover some of the text. The complete set of 1923 images is available on the Joseph Smith Papers website.