RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
26 February 2007
Book of Mormon. 1830.
Joseph Smith. BOOK OF MORMON. AN ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY THE HAND OF MORMON, UPON PLATES TAKEN FROM THE PLATES OF NEPHI...Printed by E.B. Grandin for the author, Palmyra, N. Y. 1830.
The sacred text of the Church of Latter Day Saints (The Mormons.) A 590 page 8vo book which according to COPAC is 8 inches tall. Always seems to appear in a leather (calf or sheep) binding (possibly issued unbound). Much wanted. More accessible is the British first edition published in Liverpool in 1841 which is worth about 20% of the US first. Its genesis is probably explained best in this succinct piece from Wikipedia (to which much praise and thanks) "Joseph Smith, Jr. said the book was a translation of Golden Plates he found in a hill near his home, guarded by an angel. Smith had no knowledge of ancient languages, but he said he received the translation from God through the act of looking into seer stones, or a set of crystal spectacles he said were with the plates, which were called the Urim and Thummim. During the translation, Smith obtained the affidavits of Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses who testified they saw the plates. These affidavits are published as part of the Book of Mormon. When Smith's translation was complete, he said the guardian angel took them back." 5000 copies were printed at a cost of $3000 and they were sold from the printer's building in Palmyra. The Grandin building was bought by the Church in 1978 and is now a museum (see picture.)
Current Selling Prices
$35000-$75000 / £20000-£40000
VALUE? With 5000 printed and being a book that was always valued and preserved, it is not notably uncommon. 31 copies have appeared at auction in the last 30 years making between $1000 and $70000. It is often lacking the 2 page index, something that appears to hardly affect the price. The 2 page preface is sometimes also missing and that can dent the price. Quite a lot of library copies have surfaced, possibly being sold to raise money -- they tend to make significantly less. Copies in poorish condition can still do pretty well, a phenomenon peculiar to religious books. Copies were making under $5000 way into the 1990s but in this century it has almost always made over $40K. It's price seems to have taken of in 1997/1998 -possibly with the rise of the internet or greater general affluence and interest in possessing landmark works. [Want level 50 - 75 High]
STOP PRESS. March 22 2007. A first edition Book of Mormon, in its original binding, that was signed by early LDS apostle Orson Pratt, and with an inscription by its owner, Denison Root, indicating "the book was a gift from Hyrum Smith," brother of church founder Joseph Smith sold for $180,000. A new record for the book and showing the power of provenace and association. Root was married to Phoebe Hale, sister to Emma Hale, who was the wife of Joseph Smith.