Thursday, March 24, 2011

Regarding the new "Published Revelations" volume of the Joseph Smith Papers project

I was able to attend what I suspect was an experiment on the part of the Church History department.  A "blogger event" was held in conjunction with the release of the two volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) project -- as a way to inform, and advertise the release of these volumes.

Richard Turley said that the goal of the editors of the JSP project is to present Joseph Smith's papers in an unfiltered, quality format.  In the past, most publications have included interpretive context for Joseph Smith words.  The JSP project includes only the text, background of that text, and other related tools, leaving interpretation and other scholarly endeavors to other historians.

Originally the JSP project planned to present all the papers in a letter press form, but have since decided to present some of the papers in digital media only.
  The project finds itself in the midst of an information revolution.  "Book people" are finding that they are becoming "digital migrants" as the information age progresses, being pushed into a digital world.  The project originally conceived of 30+ printed volumes, but has scaled that down to about 22 projected volumes, plus digitized documents.

About 65,000 copies of the diaries volume and 32,000 copies of the pricey, over-sized Manuscript Revelations volume have sold to date, unprecedented for other projects publishing the papers of an esteemed individual.  The Church Historians Press is releasing a smaller 7 X 10 version of the Revelations and Translations, Manuscript Revelations volume at a reduced price.  It was not clear to me if it would include all the same content in a smaller format, or if some of the content (I.E. photos) would be excluded.

The other volume being released is the Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations, edited by Robin Jensen, Richard E. Turley, Jr., and Riley Lorimer.  The primary content of the volume is the Book of Commandments (BoC), the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), selections from the second edition of the D&C, revelations published in the Evening and Morning Star (E&MS), plus revelations printed in the later reprint of the Evening and Morning Star.  According to Turley, "almost all revelations" and every compilation of revelations, excepting a few broadsides are now published.  He noted this stands in contrast to some religions who do not publish, or even record their revelations.

We were shown two original copies of the BoC, a very rare volume whose value is in the 7-digit realm on the open market. Turley talked about the history of the printing of the BoC and noted that because of the destruction of the press, its content is incomplete. I've written about the details of an appendix that includes a proposed "sixth gathering" of the BoC, their best guess at what would have been printed in the complete BoC.

Robin Jensen was involved in a rather pains taking effort to try to identify the sources for the printed revelations.  Often, multiple copies of a revelation existed before its printed publication.  Determination of the genealogy of a printed revelation often came down to slight variations in punctuation. Jensen says he spent a month in this effort, and feels they have been able to identify the sources for 85% of the revelations.

Another appendix includes markings in Oliver Cowdery 1835 copy of the D&C.  Cowdery's made markings in preparation for the forthcoming edition, providing readers the opportunity to see Cowdery's thought on how the revelations should be modified, included, etc...

Yet another appendix includes a list of code names, places, etc... that were substituted for real names, places and so on in the revelations.  For example, "Joseph Smith" was called "Enoch," "Gazelam" or "Baurak Ale" in various revelations.

Riley Lorimer did the typesetting and designing of the volume.  The text of the BoC and editions of the D&C are photographic reproductions of original volumes rather than text. They used the less expensive duotone rather than true color in order to keep production cost down.  They also felt that extraordinary measures taken with the previous volume of handwritten revelations was not needed in the case of printed text.  Nevertheless, the photographs of the pages of the BoC and editions of the D&C are quality reproductions, and the reader should have a sense of what the original looked like.

The revelations printed in the two editions of the E&MS are in text, formatted into parallel columns to facilitate comparison of the versions of the revelations where modifications occurred.

The next planned volume will be diaries of Joseph Smith from the Nauvoo period. The JSP editors believe they are on target to release two volumes per year over the next three years.

Whether the illusive and coveted minutes of the Quorum of the Fifty will be published is still being discussed.  Debate as to what constitutes a "paper" of Joseph Smith is difficult to determine since Joseph Smith wrote very little by his own hand, and untold hours of debate have unfolded trying to define the boundaries of the project.

Lorimer noted that when she applied for her job for the JSP project, she told them quite frankly that she was not looking for a simplistic presentation of Joseph Smith's papers, but a scholarly, complete presentation.  Worried she had offended them; she was later relieved to find that each of the team also felt the same way and were impressed with her commitment to an honest endeavor.  Turley pointed out that the logo of the Church Historians Press contains two circles, one representing scholarly standards, the other representing church standards.  He says their goal has been to meet the highest standards of both.  General authorities review and approve the volumes, and have offered suggestions of clarification.

Other reports of this event include:
Discounted prices of the book can be found here:

Salt Lake Valley
Benchmark Books
3269 S. Main St., Ste. 250
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Utah Valley
Confetti Antiques & Books
273 North Main St.
Spanish Fork, UT 84660

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