February 17, 2010

Huge new database of 19th-century publications about the Book of Mormon

Matt Roper from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute of Religious Scholarship (formerly FARMS) has managed to track down, compile, and scan 556 publications discussing the Book of Mormon from between 1829 and 1844. The collection, called "19th-Century Publications about the Book of Mormon (1829–1844)" (also known as the "Kirkham project" after Francis W. Kirkham), is available for digging through online at the Harold B. Lee Library Digital Collections. 

The collection includes facsimile copies as well as .pdf transcriptions of each publication. It seems to be an exciting resource for researching the reception and analysis of the Book of Mormon in early American print culture. The collection is described as follows:

Since its publication in 1830, the Book of Mormon has been cast in a variety of roles by both Latter-day Saint and non–Latter-day Saint readers. Published literature relating to the book that appeared during the Prophet Joseph Smith's lifetime is one of the best historical windows for understanding how this ancient American scripture was interpreted, used, and understood by early readers. This collection represents an effort to gather together that body of literature and make it available to those interested in the origins of the Book of Mormon.
The cropped image above is an excerpt from The Wayne Sentinel, Palmyra, New York, 26 June 1829. It is the earliest known publication mentioning the Book of Mormon. Here's part of the provided transcript:

***

Just about in this particular region, for some time past, much speculation has existed, concerning a pretended discovery, through superhuman means, of an ancient record, of a religious and a divine nature and origin, written in ancient characters, impossible to be interpreted by any to whom the special gift has not been imparted by inspiration. It is generally known and spoken of as the “Golden Bible.” Most people entertain an idea that the whole matter is the result of a gross imposition and a grosser superstition. It is pretended that it will be published as soon as the translation is completed. Meanwhile we have been furnished with the following, which is represented to us as intended for the title page of the work--we give it as a
curiosity:—
“The Book of Mormon, an account, written by the hand of Mormon upon plates, taken
from the plates of Nephi—

***

See the collection here: http://lib.byu.edu/dlib/bompublications/. Having these sources in one place is great. I hope it grows, too.