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"Adam fell, that men might be;
and men are, that they might have joy." p. 65

THE BOOK OF MORMON: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. . . . By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor. Palmyra [NY]: Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the Author., 1830.

 

 

18½ cm. (binding 19 cm. = 7½ inches tall).  iv, [5]-588, [2] pp. Collated COMPLETE. Page iv is mis-numbered "vi": a commonly-seen printing variation. Many such errors occur in some copies of this edition, in any number of variant combinations. "No pattern to these variations has emerged," notes Peter Crawley, "and it is unlikely that one will." It is interesting to see that of the very few examples of variations Crawley lists, the book considered here has two: "Holy one" instead of "Holy One" (page 81, line 20), and "carcases" instead of "carcasses" (page 91, line 9).

 

FIRST EDITION. Flake 595; Crawley 1; Howes S623; Grolier Club List of 100 Influential American Books; Sabin 83038; A Mormon Fifty, 1.

Five thousand copies were printed on the third floor of the Grandin Building which stands on the north side of Main Street in Palmyra Village. Luther Howard, on the second story, saw to the binding, and by the end of March, 1830, sent copies down for sale in the walk-in store. Having thus descended from the Celestial level to that of earth, many copies were ultimately consigned to outer darkness. The few which stagger back from their extended missions find eager friends waiting, and are welcomed home as the collector's prize.

** $75,000 ** SOLD

 

 

 

 


The book lies open easily on its own, with no stiffness.
Many of the pages are stunningly clean.

 

OBTAINED FROM THE FIELD here in the East. In early spring, 1996, a nicely-attired couple of retirement age drove from Vermont with this book for me to examine and hopefully purchase. They had first taken their treasure to the venerable Tuttle Antiquarian Books company of Rutland, Vermont (established 1832), who suggested that they offer the book to me. As I turned the bright pages and saw the potential of the unusually attractive original binding (wanting only a little oil and slight repair), I realized that this was indeed something quite special. I was able to offer the gentleman twice the price he had suggested.

The book had been in my visitor's family for at least a century, and quite possibly longer; (his name will be provided to the purchaser). It still bears the original pencil signature of the gentleman's stated great-grandfather, Rev. M[atthew] A[lonzo] GATES, who was born in the town of Mendon, New York (where the family of Brigham Young was just then settling) on November 14, 1826. Rev. Gates graduated from the Auburn Theological Seminary (which young Brigham helped build) in 1858. He then served as a Congregational minister, strengthening one assembly and then moving on to another, including some eight locations in Vermont and two in New Hampshire. He died on February 18, 1901. - John R. Comstock, The Congregational Churches of Vermont and Their Ministry 1762-1942 (St. Johnsbury, Vermont: Cowles Press, 1942), p. 184.

The illustration at left shows the Old Meetinghouse of Salem, New Hampshire, built in 1738 and one of Matthew Alonzo Gates' pastorates, according to brief notes supplied by Gates' great-grandson with the book. If memory serves, the previous owner indicated that Rev. Gates is buried in St. Johnsbury, where Jacob Gates of the LDS First Council of the Seventy (1811-92) was born.

This exceptional volume sold almost instantly after I acquired it, of course. Now worth many times the price only eight years later, it has been relinquished by my customer and is now offered a second time for sale.

 

 

 

BINDING: Original marbled calf; leather label and (evidently) blind-tooled double lines on spine. Two flyleaves at the front and three at the back (all original, the maximum number possible). However, the first flyleaf was evenly glued down to the front paste-down at an early date (quite possibly to hide an earlier owner's name), leaving only one free flyleaf for Rev. Gates to sign more than a century ago. Upon close inspection, one can see that what at first appears to be the front pastedown is in fact the first flyleaf (technically, the "front free endpaper").

This beautiful binding requires considerable comment. It is certainly original, but it exhibits some anomalies of interest. If one considers the challenge of producing 5,000 calf bindings in a small shop in Palmyra, it will not be surprising to find a curiosity like the present volume. Not all copies were delivered at once, of course, and I think one must presume that many hands, if not more than one establishment, contributed to the work. Did someone experiment with some copies? Marbled calf, seen here, was generally produced much like marbled paper: by floating colored oil in irregular patterns on water, then dipping the piece of leather (before binding) face down upon the surface, and lifting it off again. The oil would dye the piece in interesting patterns . . .

 


The binding is so supple that it can be opened fully for scanning, without stress.

 

In addition to being attractive, such a process could obscure an inherent fault which we see in so many copies of this edition, and which is present in this copy as well: patched leather. Look very closely at the back board (on the left, above). As usual when working with a flawed piece of leather, the Book of Mormon binder carefully arranged the piece so that the patched portion appeared on the back cover, making it less noticeable to the customer! Do you see the two patches? One is at the left, lower edge. The other forms a circle adjacent to the spine, one third the way down from the top. These patches are usually very apparent. But by marbling this piece of patched leather before placing it on the book, these original 1830 repairs are much less visible. The overall effect is rather like the depth and beauty of wood burl on fine furniture . . .

 


The patches are right there. Can you see them?

 

We must now ask the obvious question: If someone went to all this trouble, then where is the expected gold on the spine? One frequently sees a first-edition Book of Mormon from which all the gold has worn away. But in the case of this book, one has to ask if some copies were never gilt at all! An example like the one now at hand forces us to consider the possibility that, perhaps from lack of gold leaf, combined with pressure to get the bindings out and finish the job, it was simply not possible to gild every Book of Mormon spine. Look carefully at this enlargement of the spine label. The indentations are still sharp and crystal clear. My conservator/binder friend near Palmyra, Fred A. Jordan (who has worked on many Book of Mormon first editions), assures me that he finds no evidence that this spine was ever gilt. Yet the label (which is now an olive tan, and was probably never black as expected), is lettered with the precise font and style seen in other original labels for this edition.

 

The spine has suffered from a bit of abuse over the years, as one can see. In addition, I commissioned Mr. Jordan to strengthen the upper front joint and restore a very small portion of the upper spine cap. This book is not perfect, but is surely among the two finest copies I have ever sold, especially when we consider the condition of the pages . . .

 

 

 

The TEXT PAGES are all present, and are all original to this volume. The corners are sharp, and the pages unworn. There is a little staining here and there. However, the generally appearance and cleanness of the paper is so pleasing as to let me generalize by saying that this is a stunningly nice copy overall. There are no notes or writing. No text is missing (other than a very few letters where two very small holes occur - natural paper flaws from 1829, I believe - on two leaves [pp. 497-8 and 503-4]: hardly the sort of thing anyone worries about). It is a pleasure to offer such a book, and it will be a pleasure as you turn the crisp, unworn pages. The pages are of a uniform color, but the various lights from photographing and scanning produce the differences of tone seen in my various illustrations here. I can honestly say that the book looks nicer in person than it appears in many of these pictures.

 

 


The creasing seen in the title page is a hallmark of the first-edition Book of Mormon, and is not a flaw. It was caused by the stretching of the dampened paper during the impression of the type, compounded by the bulk of the thick textblock under pressure in the press and the binding. The scan above accentuates every fault: the actual original is pleasing to see.

 

 


Extreme detail, showing the appearance of the type.

 


The two final leaves are often found to have
suffered wear - but not in this copy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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