Thursday, December 25, 2014

First Edition BOOK OF MORMON: Why are some copies thinner than others?

I recently acquired a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon [1830] that was about 1/4" thinner than most copies that I acquire.  In fact, of the over 175 copies that I've either seen or acquired, only about five or six have been these extra-thin copies. So, here's the question, "What accounts for the difference in thickness?"  Well, fortunately I have friends and experts that I can go to for answers.  In this case I went to Joseph Adams (, who has a degree in "printmaking" about this phenomenon.  That's when he told me about "rolling machines".  These rolling machines were used to  flatten and consolidate the sections of a book before sewing.  At the time of the printing of the first edition Book of Mormon by E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York, these rolling machines were mostly in use in England--they had just been invented in 1827.

Now, the big question is, "Does this 'thinness' affect the value?".  Well, it depends--for the following reason: The first edition Book of Mormon has a well-known look (see  So, when a person is looking for a first edition Book of Mormon, they usually don't want to explain why their book "doesn't look like a first edition". Having said this, I actually like finding these "thin" copies.  They are typically very clean on the inside.  The text in these books is usually almost always free from the brown splotches (foxing) normally seen in first editions.  This leads me to believe that the leather binding--or more specifically, the chemicals used in tanning the leather--were partly, or mostly to blame for the foxing--but that's the subject of another blog.  In a way, it's a trade off.  So, if you would like a first edition copy of the Book of Mormon, that has a nice, clean white interior, look for one of the thin copies.  The "thin" copy shown is one of ten first edition copies of the Book of Mormon currently for sale at Moon's Rare Books in Provo, Utah.  These books are shown by appointment only.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Edition BOOK OF MORMON [1830]: What are the two most important factors in determining value?

There are several factors that influence the value of a first edition Book of Mormon [1830].  However, the two most important factors are condition and provenance. Almost everyone understands the importance of condition, however, the added value of the "provenance" is often underestimated.  Provenance is the history of ownership.  The history of "who" owned the book can make a big difference in its value.  

I was recently contacted by a television station back East.  They were doing a story on a woman who found a 150 year-old Bible in her attic that was supposedly worth over $100,000.  I was asked for my opinion before the story aired on TV.  My first question to the reporter was, "What's its provenance? Who owned the Bible?"  The reporter then responded, "Why do you ask?".  I told the reporter that there were over 100 million Bibles printed in the 1800s--that most Bibles printed in the 1800s sell for a few hundred dollars--except those with exceptional provenance.  I asked the reporter if it was Abraham Lincoln's copy.  When he said, "no".  I told him that the Bible he was inquiring about--without important provenance--would not be worth over $1,000.  I recommended he do a quick check of prices on eBay.  Long story short, the news story was cancelled.  Without any significant provenance, that particular Bible did not have much value.

I recently acquired a first edition Book of Mormon that belonged to Emily Partridge--one of Joseph Smith's plural wives and later a wife of Brigham Young.  This book, with Emily's name in ink, also has the very interesting notation that was later made by Emily's son, "Mother brought this book from Nauvoo and left her own behind as it was not so good".  A book like this--with its close association to the man who translated the Book of Mormon (Joseph Smith), and later the man who led the Mormons West (Brigham Young); which was also owned by the daughter of the first Mormon bishop  (Edward Partridge) has excellent provenance.  This provenance increases the value of this book substantially.

Friday, November 14, 2014

How much does a first edition BOOK OF MORMON cost in today's market?

The first edition BOOK OF MORMON was printed in 1830 in Palmyra, New York.  As few as 500 copies ( out of the original 5,000)  have survived.  In today's market, nice--above average-- copies of the first edition  Book of Mormon sell for around $100,000.  There were also four other editions of the Book of Mormon printed during the life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet [1805-1844].  The second edition, which is more scarce than the first edition,  was printed in Kirtland, Ohio in 1837.  The third edition was printed in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1840.  The first European edition was printed in Liverpool in 1841.  And finally, there was another edition ( of a little over 600 copies)  printed in Nauvoo in 1842.  In 2014, a complete set, as shown in the attached photo, would sell for over $250,000.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The first edition BOOK OF MORMON has a unique characteristic--a "diamond-shaped" imprint on the title page.  This appears to have happened at some stage during the bookbinding process at the E. B. Grandin press in Palmyra, New York.  The indention made by this imprint is so strong that it often passes through the first hundred or so pages the book.   This "diamond" shape varies slightly in size, shape and position on the title page.  In fact, the positioning of the diamond on the title page was one of the clues that helped me identify a stolen first edition Book of Mormon title page two years ago.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The first edition BOOK OF MORMON was printed in 1830.  It is interesting to note that after 1830, for the next 58 years, all subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon would be printed in a smaller size and font. I recently acquired Helen Mar Kimball's 1841 copy of the Book of Mormon--which was given to her when she was thirteen years old by "uncle" Brigham Young.  Helen is the daughter of Mormon apostle Heber C. Kimball.

In her journal she made reference to the smaller-sized print, "There is but one fault I find with it--the print is so fine that many times I have been forced to stop reading it; and this, I believe, prevents many from reading it who otherwise would, as some who are not of our faith but are friendly to this people, have mentioned this to me, and said it was the only reason why they did not read it.  This I think is a great pity.".

In the photograph I show several editions, side by side, with the first edition Book of Mormon on the left, and the 1888 pulpit edition on the right. From left to right, these copies of the Book of Mormon were printed in 1830, 1840, 1841, 1852, 1885 and 1888.  The photo below is from Helen Mar Kimball's own Book of Mormon.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Brigham Young gave this First Edition [European] BOOK OF MORMON to Helen Mar Kimball when she was 13 years old.

First European Edition of the Book of Mormon [1841]. The story behind my new acquisition. 

This past weekend I enjoyed reading Holzapfel's "A Woman's View: Helen Mar [Kimball] Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History". In this book, Helen recounts, "The Prophet Joseph Smith and two or three brethren called at our house to hear a letter read from father [Heber C. Kimball]. Joseph, who stood by the bureau, where a couple of china dolls were standing on two large salt cellars (which had been sent from England to my mother [Vilate]) picked one of the dolls up to look at, but in replacing it sat it upon one side--and it fell, breaking the doll's head off. He then merely remarked: "As that has fallen, so shall the heathen gods fall." I stood there a silent observer, unable to understand or appreciate the prophetic words, but thought them a rather weak apology for breaking my doll's head off. My mother afterwards mended it, and though like most of us it shows signs of age, and that it has passed through many ordeals, yet I have kept it, with two or three other little tokens which I received from England....Including a Book of Mormon. My brother William and I received each a beautifully bound BOOK OF MORMON from "Uncle" Brigham Young, with our names printed upon the back in gilt letters...I have read mine through by course more times than any other book I ever saw, and each time it has proved more interesting; I was never more deeply fascinated by a novel than I have been with the Book of Mormon. I've attached two photographs of Helen Mar Kimball's 1841 copy of the Book of Mormon. Earlier this week I got a phone call asking if I was interested in acquiring it....Well, needless to say, I was on a plane 12 hours later. I now own this beautiful book--along
with it's enlightening story.....

Friday, February 21, 2014

One of the "25 finest surviving copies" of the  First Edition BOOK OF MORMON [1830] 

In 1829, Joseph Smith made plans to print the Book of Mormon.  He contacted a local newspaper publisher and bookstore owner in Palmyra, New York named E. B. Grandin.  Mr. Grandin agreed to print 5,000 copies for $3,000.  Martin Harris, a friend of Joseph Smith,  mortgaged his farm to acquire the funds for the printing of the Book of Mormon.

The 1830 first edition Book of Mormon was originally bound in brown calf, plain except for the seven double bands in gilt on the spine with a black leather label stamped in gilt with "BOOK OF MORMON". The end sheets are of the same paper as the text.  The copyright notice appears on the verso of the title page.  A preface (pp. [iii]-iv) explains the loss of the initial 116 pages of manuscript and the revelation of Joseph Smith not to retranslate that part but to begin with the plates of Nephi.  Only the 1830 edition has this preface.  Pages 5-588 contain the main text, and the testimonies of the three and of the eight witnesses occur on both sides of the leaf following page 588.  (Crawley, A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, Vol. 1 pg. 31)

This is one of the finest first edition copies of the Book of Mormon to come on the market in many years.  Of the original 5,000 copies, as few as 500 have survived.  I have seen over 150 of these surviving copies.  Based on the vast number of copies that I have seen and handled,  I would say that this copy, which rates a solid "9" on a "1-10" scale, is easily one of the 25 finest surviving copies in the world.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

I just posted several new photos on my Pinterest page about the "First Edition Book of Mormon".
I just acquired a very rare "red label" first edition Book of Mormon.  Most copies (around 97%) have a black label.  About 2% have a tan or brown label.  And only a few have the red label.

Monday, January 27, 2014

This is a very valuable and rare stack of books: (6) first edition copies of the Book of Mormon [1830], a first edition Doctrine and Covenants [1835]--which is worth at least twice as much as a first edition Book of Mormon; and the extremely rare Messenger and Advocate [1834-36] which is worth more even more than the first edition Doctrine and Covenants.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I'm often asked,  "Why do people sell their first edition copies of the Book of Mormon to you?"  Although there are a variety of reasons, the most common is for financial reasons.   In a generation, this iconic book has increased in value from $100 in the 1960s, to $5,000 in the 1980s; and now a copy was appraised for $100,000 on the "Antiques Roadshow":  and I've  just listed another copy on eBay for $79,995:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This month I have purchased three new copies of the FIRST EDITION BOOK OF MORMON--and hope to acquire another copy this weekend in California.  If you have an interest in buying, selling or having a copy appraised, please contact me:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's been a busy week already.  I've traveled 1,800 miles and tracked down two copies of the first edition Book of Mormon [1830].  You never know what type of condition these books will be in.  I've attached a photo to compare the two copies.  On a "1-10" scale, the copy on the left would rate a "3" and the copy on the right a "7".  I've just added several new photos to my Pinterest page that highlights the first edition Book of Mormon.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Did you know that there were five editions of the BOOK OF MORMON printed during the life of Joseph Smith?  I've just recorded a video that shows all five editions and their title pages.  Take a look...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
I've just posted a new video on YouTube that gives tips on buying, selling or having a first edition BOOK OF MORMON [1830] appraised.  If you would like to have your 1st edition Book of Mormon appraised, or almost any book for that matter, all you need to do is send me a few digital images of the binding, title page and text.  I will then send you a free estimate.  If a more formal written appraisal is needed, details can be worked out.   I'm an allied professional with the Appraisers Association of America.  Please send inquiries to: or