The long wait has been worth it. FARMS is pleased to announce the publication of the first two volumes of a project that promises to be a boon to Book of Mormon textual studies and related research. Prepared by Royal Skousen, professor of English and linguistics at Brigham Young University, these volumes contain typographical facsimiles of the original and printers manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. Later volumes, which will be available in the next three years, will include a history of the text of the Book of Mormon, an analysis of textual variants in the book, and a complete electronic collation of the two manuscripts and 20 different printed versions of the Book of Mormon.
This monumental project, which began in 1988, has two main goals. The first is to determine, to the extent possible, the original English-language text of the bookthat is, the text that Joseph Smith received by means of the interpreters or the seer stone. The second purpose is to establish the history of the wording of the text, including both accidental errors and editorial changes that the book has undergone as it has been transmitted down through time in its many editions.
Initially, this project focused primarily on the two manuscripts of the Book of Mormon: the original manuscript and the printers manuscript. The original manuscript was produced in the spring and early summer of 1829 by scribes who wrote down the Prophet Joseph Smiths dictation of the text. In 1841 it was placed in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in Nauvoo, Illinois, where it remained until 1882. By that time, however, most of the manuscript had been destroyed by mold and water seepage. The surviving fragments, which represent 28 percent of the original text, are now mostly in the historical archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The printers manuscript was copied from the original manuscript between August 1829 and the early months of 1830. The printer used this manuscript to typeset most of the Book of Mormon, although the section from Helaman 13 through Mormon 9 was typeset from the original manuscript. The printers manuscript is virtually complete and is held by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Independence, Missouri.
The first two volumes in the series contain typographical facsimiles of the two manuscripts. This kind of transcription is an exact reproduction of the text in typescript, including original spellings, miswritings, cross-outs, overwritings, erasures, and scribal insertions. The books also include color and black-and-white ultraviolet photographs of some of the manuscript pages and fragments.
The third volume in the series will be a history of the text of the Book of Mormon. It will discuss the transmission of the text, from the two manuscripts and the first printing in 1830 through 13 subsequent LDS editions as well as the 1858 Wright edition and 5 RLDS editions.
The fourth volume will discuss cases of textual variance and will attempt to determine the original reading from the earliest sources. A complete scholarly analysis of the text of the Book of Mormon has not been done before, although FARMS published a preliminary study from 1984 through 1986.
The fifth volume will not be a printed book. Rather, it will be an electronic collation of each textual variant in the Book of Mormon, including punctuation. It will include the readings of the two manuscripts lined up side by side with the readings of the 20 published versions mentioned above.
This groundbreaking project represents years of painstaking, meticulous work that will be a tremendous resource for Book of Mormon scholars, historians, teachers, and students.