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Editions of the Book of Mormon

The first three editions of the Book of Mormon were produced under the general supervision of Joseph Smith. The first edition (1830) consisted of five thousand copies and was published by E. B. Grandin of Palmyra, New York. This edition was chiefly set from the printer's manuscript, except for Helaman 13 through the end of Mormon, which were set from the original manuscript (see also the supplemental article A Brief History of the Translation of the Book of Mormon). The typesetter, John Gilbert, generally followed the request that the "grammatical errors" in the original text not be corrected. Nonetheless, Gilbert was responsible for the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and paragraphing in the first edition.

The second edition was published in 1837 by the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. For this edition, Joseph Smith went through the printer's manuscript and altered the grammar of the text to reflect more standard English. His corrections, almost all of which are grammatical in nature, are in heavy black ink and are found throughout the manuscript.

The third edition was published in 1840 by Shepard and Stearns in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the assistance of Ebenezer Robinson. For this edition, Joseph Smith made a few additional emendations, and grammatical changes. He also restored a handful of phrases that had been lost when the printer's manuscript was produced during the printing of the 1830 edition. In addition, a stereotype (set of printing plates) of this edition was produced and taken to Nauvoo, from which a number of printings were made between 1840 and 1842.

The next three editions of the Book of Mormon (1841, 1849, and 1852) were printed in England (Liverpool and London). The 1841 edition is basically a resetting of the 1837 edition, with a few accidental changes. The 1849 edition was produced under the direction of Orson Pratt and involved a few grammatical corrections. The 1852 edition, printed and edited under the direction of Franklin Richards, is particularly interesting because in the second printing of this edition a number of in-press corrections were made by reference to the 1840 edition (the last edition Joseph Smith himself worked on). Nonetheless, these corrections took place in only some of the plates for that edition, so not all of Joseph Smith's changes in the 1840 edition appear in the corrected 1852 text. A stereotype was made of the corrected plates and was used until 1879 for subsequent printings. Richards also numbered the paragraphs, thus producing the first (although primitive) versification for the text.

For the 1879 edition, Orson Pratt created the chapter and versification system that has been followed in all subsequent LDS editions. He divided the original chapters into smaller chapters. The original longer chapters (still followed by the Community of Christ, formerly the RLDS Church) are based on narrative cohesiveness. Pratt's chapter system is based on themes, and each chapter is small enough that no chapter reaches one hundred verses. In addition, Pratt added footnotes to the text. His footnotes give scriptural cross-references and provide commentary. Pratt published this edition in Liverpool, England. Two stereotypes were produced: one remained in England, and the other was sent to Salt Lake City. Printings from these stereotypes were produced up to about 1920 despite their deterioration over time.

Other edtions based on the 1879 edition were produced near the turn of the century.

In 1888 a large-print edition was printed in Salt Lake City for the Juvenile Instructor. This was the only edition prior to 1920 to provide dates in the text.

In 1902 a missionary edition was published by Burd and Fletcher of Kansas City, Missouri.

In 1905 a missionary edition was published by Henry C. Etten of Chicago, Illinois, for German Ellsworth, president of the Northern States Mission; a stereotype was produced and used for many additional printings (for at least ten years). For the third (1907) printing of this edition, a number of changes were made in the stereotype, some of which were based on the 1906 edition described below.

The 1906 large-print edition was published by the Deseret News. It was set not from the previous 1888 large-print edition but from a later printing of the 1879 edition. This edition introduced a few grammatical changes into the text, which the LDS textual tradition has retained.

In 1907 the first pocket-size edition was published by the Deseret Sunday School Union in Salt Lake City.

In about 1911 (the year 1911 is a guess because the edition itself gives no date) a large-print edition was published by Henry C. Etten of Chicago, again for German Ellsworth. This edition followed the 1907 corrected plates of the 1905 Chicago missionary edition and was used as the copy text for the 1920 edition.

The current (1981) LDS edition derives from the 1920 edition. This latter edition was edited under the direction of a committee of general authorities headed by George F. Richards with Anthony W. Ivins, James E. Talmage, Melvin J. Ballard, and Joseph Fielding Smith (and perhaps Anthon H. Lund) as committee members. The 1920 edition continued the basic format of the 1879 edition but placed the text in double columns and restricted the footnotes to scriptural references. The committee placed dates at the bottom of the text (following the 1888 edition) and wrote chapter summaries placed at the head of each chapter as well as in a "Synopsis of Chapters" at the end of the book. They added an index as well as a guide to the pronunciation of names. This edition also included introductory material that lists the various plates, explains the origin of the Book of Mormon (from Joseph Smith's 1839 account), and provides a table of contents (which gives the "names and order of books").

The current LDS edition (1981) is a revision of the 1920 edition but follows its general format. The same kinds of introductory material, footnotes, dating system, chapter summaries, and indexes are found. In addition, the footnotes also frequently refer to the Topical Guide at the back of the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible. All of these ancillary materials were thoroughly revised for this edition, which was produced under the direction of Thomas S. Monson, Boyd K. Packer, and Bruce R. McConkie, three members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The text restored some of the original readings (that is, wordings) found in the two Book of Mormon manuscripts, plus a few readings found in the 1840 edition, the last edition that Joseph Smith edited.

The RLDS (now Community of Christ) editions of the Book of Mormon are derived from the 1840 Cincinnati/Nauvoo edition. This edition was used as copy text for the 1858 "Jas. O. Wright" edition published in New York City. A couple of years later, the same printed sheets (except for a changed introduction) were bound into volumes for Zadoc Brook ("Elder in the Church of Christ"). Copies of the Wright/Brook edition were used by RLDS Church members for about twenty years until this edition was exhausted. In 1874 the RLDS Church published its own edition, based on both the 1840 Cincinnati/Nauvoo and 1858 Wright/Brook editions. The earliest bound volumes correctly give Plano, Illinois, as the place of publication. Later bound volumes list Lamoni, Iowa, as the place of publication. In 1892 the RLDS Church published a large-print, double-column edition based directly on their 1874 edition.

In 1903 the RLDS Church purchased the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon from the grandson of David Whitmer and then used it extensively to restore many original readings of the text in their 1908 edition. In 1953 the authorized text of the 1908 edition was lightly edited, with most changes involving questions of grammar. In 1966 the RLDS Church also published a modernized version of the text, one that attempted to remove all archaic language. The Community of Christ distributes the 1908/1953 "authorized edition" and the 1966 modernization.

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