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SOLD at CHRISTIE'S, New York, in sale of
Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts  including Americana,
19 June 2007.

 

Archaelogical proof for the Book of Mormon, published by John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, 1843.

 

A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE BRASS PLATES Recently taken from a Mound in the Vicinity of Kinderhook, Pike County, Illinois. . . . Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, June 24th, 1843. Taylor & Woodruff, Printers.

BROADSIDE, 41.3 X 29.8 cm. (16¼ X 11¾ inches). Soiled, with light stains; separating at folds.

 

Discovered in Illinois many years ago. Affixed to the upper margin is an early oblong strip of blue paper (2.6 X 20 cm.) bearing this inscription:

 

"Mrs. Smith, widow of the Mormon Prophet, presented this engraving
to the Donor at Nauvoo 1847: she did not believe in Mormon."

 

THIS VERY POSTER was thus apparently owned or handled by Emma Smith. The attached note to that effect is in a nineteenth-century hand and bears every appearance of coming from an era when the claim it makes would scarcely have conveyed anything but sentimental (as opposed to monetary) significance. Indeed, in the period concerned, the widow Emma Smith is known to have sold or given away a number of objects formerly owned by her husband, and it is reasonable to imagine that this may have been Joseph's own copy.

 

 

THE FIRST ILLUSTRATION of the Kinderhook Plates, printed by two future presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.

 

 

 

EXTREMELY RARE. Flake 8956; Byrd Illinois Imprints 764; Stanley B. Kimball, "Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax," in The Ensign for August, 1981, pp. 67, 72 (illustration), 74.

The following comments were produced before Peter Crawley's Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church was published; see further below for updated information.

Larger than other examples and versions described. Flake indicates that this important broadside is "Found in at least three variants," and describes a much smaller format, measuring 38 X 20 cm. Flake locates examples at the Library of Congress, Harvard, and the LDS Church in Salt Lake City. Byrd does not note the Salt Lake example, but reports two copies preserved by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints at Independence, Missouri. He provides a measurement of "29 X 40 cm." Stanley B. Kimball illustrates an example at the Utah LDS Church Archives in which the title reads ". . . Recently taken from a Mound near Kinderhook . . ." which he describes as measuring 15 X 12 inches; he mentions no other examples or variants there.

 

EXTREMELY RARE. Flake 8956, etc. Crawley 180.

Dr. Crawley identifies two different typesettings (Crawley 180 and 181). The broadside offered here conforms to the likely earlier typesetting. In addition, Crawley identifies three different states of that earlier setting, of which the present broadside conforms to state number 3 (Crawley, Vol. 1, page 225 [entry 180/181]). He shows only one location for each state:

Crawley 180:
1) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ". . . inscribed at the bottom in Wilford Woodruff's hand, 'Printed By Taylor & Woodruff June 24th 1843.'"

2) Library of Congress

3) Harvard

Crawley 181:
Presumed later typesetting : Two locations: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Utah Historical Society.

 

IN SUMMARY:  THREE KNOWN LOCATIONS of the presumed first typesetting, each a different state. The broadside now offered here conforms to Crawley state 3, at Harvard, bringing the total known locations to four.

 

 

 

A faith-promoting poster; probably the first pictorial evidence for the Book of Mormon ever printed by the Church. On April 23, 1843, six small brass plates cut in the shape of a bell were dug out of an Indian mound some seventy miles south of Nauvoo. They bore strange inscriptions, and were joined together with a ring, something like the golden plates which had been described years earlier by Joseph Smith. It was not long until these objects found their way to Nauvoo, where they were heralded as archaeological evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. John Taylor was then editor of the Times and Seasons, and the editorial for May 1, 1843, cheered:

ANCIENT RECORDS.

Circumstances are daily transpiring which give additional testimony to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. . . . it was [once considered] improbable, nay, almost impossible—notwithstanding the testimony of history to the contrary, that anything like plates could have been used anciently; particularly among this people. The following letter and certificate, will, perhaps have a tendency to convince the sceptical, that such things have been used, and that even the obnoxious Book of Mormon, may be true; and as the people in Columbus' day were obliged to believe that there was such a place as America; so will the people in this day be obliged to believe, however reluctantly, that there may have been such plates as those from which the Book of Mormon was translated. [Times and Seasons 4 (May 1, 1843), pp. 185-6]

 

Taylor then inserted authenticating affidavits which had been sent to him by non-Mormons in Kinderhook, followed by a somewhat tongue-in-cheek but friendly editorial which he copied from the Quincy Whig . . .

Some pretend to say, that Smith the Mormon leader, has the ability to read them. If he has, he will confer a great favor on the public by removing the mystery which hangs over them. We learn there was a Mormon present when the plates were found, who it is said, leaped for joy at the discovery, and remarked that it would go to prove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon—which it undoubtedly will.
. . . . .

The plates . . . are now, we understand, in Nauvoo, subject to the inspection of the Mormon Prophet. The public curiosity is greatly excited, and if Smith can decipher the hieroglyphics on the plates, he will do more towards throwing light on the early history of this continent, than any man now living. [ibid, p.187]

 

John Taylor was unable to provide an illustration of these plates for his early report in the Times and Seasons, but he and Wilford Woodruff were naturally eager to publicize the wonderful discovery. Accordingly, a few weeks later, they printed the broadside now at hand, and reproduced the encouraging editorial from Quincy, along with the affidavits from Kinderhook. The plates are shown in three horizontal rows of four sides each (fronts and backs of the six plates); they are apparently woodcuts, with white hieroglyphics against black backgrounds in the shape of the plates.

Just above the facsimile of the plates, we find the promise that "The contents of the Plates, together with a Fac-Simile of the same, will be published in the ' Times & Seasons,' as soon as the translation is completed." Indeed, speculation was running high in Nauvoo on this subject, and according to William Clayton's journal:

 

"President J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found, and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the Ruler of heaven and earth." -Kimball, p.73; cf. History of the Church 5:372


Unfortunately, the Kinderhook plates were later confessed (and proven) to be a latter-day hoax, manufactured and planted in the Indian mound by non-Mormons. Nonetheless, this spectacular broadside has to be one of the most intriguing and desirable posters ever produced by the Latter-day Saints.

 

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