Thursday, August 20, 2015

Printer's Manuscript

Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen gave a presentation on the printer's manuscript this evening in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. They were the volume editors of the 11th volume published in the Joseph Smith Papers Project which will eventually run to at least 24 volumes. Skousen, Professor of Linguistics and English at BYU, has been the principal researcher on the Book of Mormon Critical Text since 1988. Jensen is a historian employed by the Church.

28% of the original text is extant. 25% is owned by the Church. 2% is owned by the Wilford Wood family in Bountiful. 1% is owned by various individuals, the University of Utah, and the Community of Christ. John Gilbert was the 1830 typesetter. Most of the printer's manuscript was penned by Oliver Cowdery. Cowdery made approximately 3 errors per page as he copied the original to the printer's manuscript. Gilbert made approximately 3 errors per page as he set type from the printer's manuscript. The original manuscript was finished in June, 1829. The printer's manuscript was begun in August, 1829 and completed in January, 1830. Helaman chapter 13 through Mormon chapter 9 (one sixth of the text) was typeset from the original, not the printer's manuscript, because in February, 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page and others had the printer's manuscript in Canada trying unsuccessfully to secure the Canadian copyright which would have provided intellectual property protection throughout the British realm.

John Gilbert added punctuation in pencil directly on the printer's manuscript and on the portion of the original manuscript he used to set type. Gilbert also added the letter "p" where he wanted a new paragraph to begin. Joseph Smith made hundreds of changes as he edited the printer's manuscript for the 1837 Kirtland edition. Changing "which" to "who" was his most common change. We now know the revealed text was rendered in Early Modern English where "which" is a perfectly good personal pronoun. The Prophet was trying to make the verbiage in the 1837 edition more like Modern English to make it more respectable in Jacksonian America. After Smith marked up the printer's manuscript, Oliver Cowdery incorporated those changes into a marked up 1830 copy from which the 1837 edition was typeset.

John Gilbert followed the KJV as he punctuated the Isaiah chapters. Gilbert also changed one instance of "that" to "at" in one of the Isaiah chapters to conform to the KJV. Our current book of Mosiah begins in the middle of chapter 2. The 116 lost pages contained the Book of Lehi, the first chapter, and part of the second chapter of Mosiah. Larger books not authored by Mormon or Moroni have book summaries. Mosiah would have a book summary if we had the complete text. Hyrum Smith as a scribe was a lousy speller. Oliver Cowdery had to heavily edit his work. Joseph Smith saw some kind of textual marking indicating a chapter break. When he came to these marks he instructed Oliver to write the word "chapter" without a number. Cowdery wrote "chapter 3" near the beginning of our current book of Mosiah which is one of the ways we know the original chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 are missing.

John Gilbert cut the printer's manuscript up into strips with a pen knife, set type from those strips, and then re-assembled the manuscript with pins which eventually rusted and left stains on the paper. 6 sheets comprised a gathering. Abner Cole published parts of the Book of Mormon as installments in his local newspaper. His is therefore the earliest publication. Joseph Smith had to exercise his privilege as the copyright owner to shut down Cole's piracy. The printer's manuscript was not available for the 1840 Nauvoo (Cincinnati) edition because Oliver Cowdery by then had been excommunicated from the Church and taken the manuscript with him. Cowdery gave it to David Whitmer, another of the three witnesses, before he (Cowdery) died in 1850. Upon Whitmer's death in 1888, the manuscript passed to his grandson, George Schweich, who sold it to the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) in 1903. It was used in the 1908 RLDS edition.

Royal showed a photograph of Ron Romig (RLDS), Skousen's wife, himself, Rick Turley and Stephen Nadauld (both LDS) and a Catholic man then working as a document conservator at the BYU library. They were in Independence. The Utah contingent had brought with them most of the extant original manuscript. They were comparing the various types of paper used in both the original and the printer's manuscript. Skousen considered this ecumenical group a metaphor for the universal appeal of the Book of Mormon, "scripture for the whole world." The printer's manuscript at this time was deteriorating. It was written in vegetable rather than iron-based ink. The LDS Church conserved the manuscript, washing and de-acidifying it and then encasing it in mylar before returning it to Independence.

The modern Book of Mormon timeline divides into four phases:
  1. Pre-translation 1823 - 1827
  2. Translation 1827 - 1829
  3. Publication 1829 - 1830
  4. Post-publication 1830 - present
In the pre-translation time period the ancient Prophet Moroni was an important influence in Joseph's life. Alvin Smith, on his deathbed in November, 1823, counseled his younger brother to "obtain the record."

Emma Smith acted as Joseph's scribe for a time in Harmony. Martin Harris took the 116 manuscript pages from Harmony to Palmyra just before Emma gave birth to their first child, a stillborn son.

In 1841 as he deposited the original manuscript in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House, Joseph Smith remarked "I've had trouble enough with this."

In June, 1878, a tornado devastated Richmond, Missouri where David Whitmer was living. 10 people died. Whitmer's two story house had the roof torn off and most of the structure was destroyed except for the room containing the printer's manuscript. Whitmer himself was injured by flying debris. In recounting this experience to George Q. Cannon, Whitmer called the preservation of the manuscript a miracle and attributed it to the power of God.

The yarn that originally bound the printer's manuscript together came from David Whitmer's mother, Mary. In June, 1829, Mary Musselman Whitmer was taking care of her own large family while at the same time entertaining Joseph and Emma, Oliver, and others. A heavenly visitor  showed her the plates, an experience which gave her the resolve she needed to carry on with her heavy responsibilities. She was the only woman privileged to formally see the plates.

The Book of Mormon was a direct word-for-word revelation from God. Joseph was not at liberty to articulate ideas in his own language.

The Community of Christ, in addition to the printer's manuscript, has letters between Joseph and Emma and the JST manuscript. They have contributed significantly to the Joseph Smith Papers Project.

In Alma 45 Oliver got tired and began to write rubbish. Joseph took over and the original manuscript has 28 words in Joseph's hand. This is one of the reasons why Royal believes Joseph saw about 30 words at a time in the seer stone. There is one place in the original manuscript where Joseph dictated about 20 words, but the average was closer to 10 words that Joseph dictated and then Oliver read back to him for verification. Ben Hunter staged a replication of this dictation/verification process. He estimates Joseph and Oliver spent about 6 hours per day on average engaged in the translation process during their time of sustained productivity. This article by Ben Hunter and Doug Christensen in the BMAF archive contains additional interesting information about the awe-inspiring translation process.