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Church Historian’s Press Releases Landmark Volume on Book of Mormon Manuscript

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press has released The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which gives readers unprecedented access to the earliest Book of Mormon manuscript through full-color photographs, a color-coded transcript, introductions, and reference material.

One of the most significant documents in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the original manuscript was penned by Oliver Cowdery and other scribes as Joseph Smith dictated the text of the Book of Mormon between April and June 1829. The Book of Mormon was first published in 1830 and remains a central volume in the Latter-day Saint scriptural canon.

The manuscript sustained major water damage in the nineteenth century, and many of the original pages were destroyed entirely. Of the manuscript’s nearly 500 pages, portions of 232 pages survive, amounting to roughly 28 percent of the text. Some of what remains is badly faded, obscured, or otherwise damaged. This volume presents photographic and typographic facsimiles of each identifiable manuscript fragment. High-resolution photos of the fragments have been pieced back together as they would have appeared in the original manuscript. The photographs included in the volume—the first complete photographic record of what remains of the original manuscript ever published—allow comparison with the transcript and provide detail that can never be fully captured in transcription.

The transcripts and annotation in this volume rely upon years of work by volume editor Royal Skousen as part of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This volume reproduces the original text based on analysis of the manuscript in its present state, as well as of multispectral images and historical photographs. The transcript preserves corrections and revisions of any kind, line and page breaks, and the locations of interlinear insertions. Since several scribes penned revisions in this manuscript, the handwriting of each is rendered in a different color to facilitate analysis. The comprehensive and careful presentation gives researchers unparalleled access to this essential text.

The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon was edited by Royal Skousen, linguist and editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, and Robin Scott Jensen, historian for the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Robin Jensen, a Joseph Smith Papers historian, examines a leaf of the original Book of Mormon manuscript.