What is so unique about the first Book of Mormon? A book that was printed with funds raised from a good Samaritan, who believed in its cause and its continuing history of Jesus Christ. Here you will find the why’s, the player’s involved in creating such a daunting task, and the continuing saga of this marvelous book.
For the first edition of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith Jr. had to decide how he wanted the book to look. Using the 1830 Bible as a guide, the first edition Book of Mormon was replicated to look the same so people of that time period would easily recognize it. It was agreed upon that 5,000 copies were printed by E. B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York in 1830. The Grandin Book Shop is still a great place to visit today and see how this first book was printed. The cost was $3,000 or about 60 cents per copy – to print and bind the book in leather. To pay for the printing, Martin Harris had to take a mortgage out on his farm.
Of the 5,000 copies printed, best estimates are that only about 500 or so have survived. And of these 500, there are about 200 that are institutionally owned (libraries, universities, etc.). So, there will only ever be a pool of about 300 copies in private hands.
There were 5 printings of the Book of Mormon during Joseph Smith’s life: 1830 (Palmyra), 1837 (Kirtland), 1840 (Nauvoo), 1841 (Liverpool), and 1842 (Nauvoo).
When was the first Book of Mormon published?
The first Book of Mormon was published in 1830, where 5,000 copies were printed by E.B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York. These books are now individually known as the First Edition Book of Mormon, and only around 500 are estimated to exist today.
How Do You Know It’s A First Edition Book of Mormon
The book has a brown leather cover and is the same size as the 1830 Bible of that time, all other editions are smaller. It has a label that reads “Book of Mormon” on its spine, which had 3 color variations. Of this label, 99% were black, and the remaining few were in tan and red, these are rarer and more difficult to find. The first edition was not divided into Chapters and Verses, which did not occur until the 1879 printing. In the 1830 Book of Mormon you will also find a preface written by the “Author” of the book, referencing the 116 pages that were lost during translation, this preface is not included in any other edition. There are 588 pages in the first edition. One typographical error to note is on page 212 it says 122 instead. Another delightful detail about the book is that there are blue speckled dots on the edges – robin egg blue was a favorite color of the early pioneers, and they used it not only on their first edition of the Book of Mormon but on many of the pieces of furniture they made.
Pricing Then & Now
The pricing history of the first edition Book of Mormon is quite interesting. When the first missionaries for the Church went out the price for this book was $1.25. This price was based equivalent to a “days wage”. I have seen that price written in several copies. A few years ago, I bought a copy that had the following inscription:
“Bought on the Mississippi River – 1831 – Price $1.25”
One hundred twenty years later, in the 1950s, you could buy a copy for $50. By the 1960s, copies could be purchased for $100. In the 1970s the priced passed the $1,000 mark for the first time. In the late 1980s you could buy a copy for $5,000. And now, nicer copies are consistently selling for around $100,000 – 125,000.
There are factors that dramatically increase the price of a first edition Book of Mormon, that is the provenance or prior ownership of a book. A good example is the Joseph Smith, Jr. family Bible. This Bible–from the early 1800s would have typically sold for around $1,000. However, because of the important provenance of that Bible, in 2010 it sold for $1.5 million dollars! Hyrum Smith’s first edition Book of Mormon sold several years ago for almost one million dollars.
I own Samuel Smith’s first edition Book of Mormon (1830). It is one of my favorite acquisitions – for me, you can’t get much better than owning the first edition Book of Mormon that belonged to the very first missionary. I also own the Joseph Smith Jr. presentation copy of the Book of Mormon printed in Nauvoo.
First Book Of Mormon In Other Languages
In 1851, twenty-one years after it’s first printing, members of the Church in Denmark were the first to read the Book of Mormon in their native language. The following year the Book of Mormon was printed in four additional languages: Welsh, Italian, French, and German.
Today there are books printed in languages from all over the world, in my shop I have on display a collection of over 100 editions just in English, also all Books of Mormon translated into languages of the world, as well as Braille, and 12-inch records.
Additional Information and Media
The following video was recorded in Dallas, Texas. Reid Moon’s Moon Rare Books has relocated to Provo, Utah since this video was originally recorded.
Looking for a First Edition Book of Mormon?
At any time we have several copies of the First Edition Book of Mormon available and on display at our Provo, Utah location. If you would like more information contact us or visit our store. Only a limited selection of our catalog is displayed online.