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the first published portrait of Joseph Smith
in the book which led to his demise
John C[ook]. BENNETT (1804-67; Assistant President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mayor of Nauvoo, Major General of the Nauvoo Legion; medical doctor, accused adulterer, abortionist and "Saintly Scoundrel"):
THE HISTORY OF THE SAINTS ; Or, An Exposé of JOE SMITH And MORMONISM. By John C. Bennett. Boston: Leland & Whiting, 71 Washington St.; New York: Bradbury, Soden, & Co., 127 Nassau Street.; Cincinnati: E. S. Norris & Co., 247 Main Street., 1842.
FIRST EDITION. Flake 403; Howes B358; Graff 262; Sabin 4733; Woodward 13.
18.8 cm. (binding, 19¼ cm. = 7½ inches tall). COLLATED COMPLETE, WITH ALL PAGES AND ALL SIX PLATES (which include temple exposé illustrations): ii, 344 pages ( four of the plates counted in the pagination) plus the fine engraved portraits of Bennett and Joseph Smith.
Two flyleaves at the front, one at the back, plus the attractive light brown endpapers front and back: all original, in very good condition.
ILLUSTRATIONS: Graff and Howes provide inaccurate information on the plates, and Flake provides incomplete information. The book contains six illustrations: the fine engraved portraits of Bennett and Smith (two extra leaves, on heavier paper, not counted in the pagination), and four simple engravings (on regular paper as part of the book, counted in the pagination; one is a verso and three are rectos, [seen by their implied page numbers below]; their opposite sides are blank): Plan of the City of Nauvoo, including small inset views of the temple & baptismal font, p. ; Daughter of Zion, showing a large number of people in the temple, Joseph Smith wearing a miter, p. ; Destroying Angel, portraying an apparent execution by Danites in the temple, p. ; and Order Lodge, with a nude person kneeling before an altar in the temple, Hyrum Smith presiding, p. 273 . . .
CONDITION: This is a nice copy of a difficult book which is generally found elsewhere in quite worn, frayed condition. The text is pleasingly clean and quite free of foxing or writing. Mr. Bennett stains the title page with a barely-recognizable ghost of his transferred image from the facing frontispiece portrait, along with other medium staining to the preliminary leaves . . .
The all-important portrait of Joseph Smith (facing page 57) is unusually fine and clean, a flawless, crisp impression, with its original tissue still in place and untorn . . .
BINDING: Original blind-stamped dark brown cloth; spine plain without lettering (as issued) and with the lurid come-on title stamped in bold gold letters on the front board: "MORMONISM EXPOSED BY JOHN C. BENNETT." Boards in very nice condition. The spine has been expertly laid back down, preserving 90% of its original cloth. Expert repair to corner tips. Once again a proud, tight copy!
PRESERVED in a custom-made gilt-lettered half-morocco leather folding ARCHIVAL BOX with rounded spine and raised bands:
"ON JULY 8, 1842," wrote David O. McKay's niece (a century after the fact),
the Sangamo Journal in Springfield [Illinois] published the most sensational extra of its career. John C. Bennett, next to the prophet the most celebrated figure in Nauvoo, had been excommunicated from the Mormon Church and was writing the editor a series of letters the like of which the latter, in all his years of sifting scandal, libel, and election hoaxes, had never seen before.
"I write you now from the Mormon Zion, the city of the Saints," Bennett began the first letter, "where I am threatened with death by the Holy Joe, and his Danite band of murderers." Calling the prophet everything from an outrageous libertine to a foul and polluted murderer, Bennett heaped story upon story until he made Nauvoo a name to rank with Sodom and Gomorrah. His subsequent letters were published at irregular intervals up to the end of September, when they appeared, collected and revised, in a book called The History of the Saints: or, An Exposé of Joe Smith and Mormonism.
The long catalogue of Bennett's accusations was republished in the leading American newspapers. "The whole thing," said the New York Herald on July 24, "is full of philosophy, fun, roguery, religion, truth, falsehood, fanaticism, and philosophy. Read the following extracts, put your trust in the Lord, and learn how to restrain your passions."
Bennett accused Joseph of setting up a despotism on the frontier which aimed to overthrow the Western states and establish an empire with himself as king. This was to be accomplished through the Legion, which, Bennett said (skirting his own peculiar responsibility in the matter), had secured thirty cannon and immense quantities of small arms from the state of Illinois. [Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (NY, 1945), p. 314]
THIS WAS TO BECOME one of the most influential anti-Mormon books ever published. It contained damaging accusations which included Mormon prostitution and polygamy (spiritual wifery) and murder by the Danite band. Bennett's shocking "revelations" may have helped directly to fuel the fires of mobocracy which, within two years of this publication, culminated in the murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Indeed, the effects of this book continued to hurt the Church for generations.
HERE IS THE FIRST PUBLISHED PORTRAIT OF JOSEPH SMITH:
The engraved plate appears on heavy paper, between pages 56 and 57. The earliest and perhaps most accurate original portrait of Joseph had evidently been made by Sutcliffe Maudsley in Nauvoo on June 25, 1842; Joseph's own diary referred to that event. The image was obviously available to John C. Bennett, since the portrait in this book was clearly done after Maudsley, and bears that artist's name.
Incredibly, a defective example of this book brought $1,870.00 at the famous Lyn Knight auction in Salt Lake City held on the evening of November 20, 1999 - even though its badly-worn binding had come loose and the all-important portrait of Joseph Smith was missing. I would not have suggested that it should bring such a price, but sex and violence sell! For good or for evil, this book has been a sensation for one hundred sixty years.
Do you see John Bennnett's "ghost" on the title page? It is a natural offsetting from the facing portrait frontispiece plate, transferred over the past 160 years!
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