Over the past twenty-five years I have tracked down almost a thousand copies of the Book of Mormon that were printed between 1830-1920.  I am fascinated by the history of the Book of Mormon.   I would like to share with you ten little-known facts about the Book of Mormon:

You will not find “Third Nephi” or “Fourth Nephi” in the first edition¬†Book of Mormon–or any other¬†edition of the¬†Book of¬†Mormon¬†printed prior to 1879. You will, however, find two books with the titles ¬†“The Book of Nephi, The Son of Nephi, Which Was the Son of Helaman”¬†¬†and “The Book of Nephi, Which Was the Son of Nephi, One of the Disciples of Jesus Christ“.¬† In 1879, when Orson Pratt divided the¬†Book of Mormon¬†into what is now our current chapters and verses, ¬† “III¬†Nephi” and “IV¬†Nephi” were added to these titles for clarification.¬† In 1920, they were¬†again revised to “Third Nephi” and “Fourth Nephi”.



 There were five editions of the Book of Mormon printed during the life of Joseph Smith [1805-1844].  The first edition was printed in Palmyra, New York in 1830.  The second edition was printed seven years later in Kirtland, Ohio [1837].  The third edition was printed in Nauvoo in 1840.  The first European edition was printed in Liverpool, England  in 1841.  And, in 1842,  another edition was printed in Nauvoo.
3) ¬†The first edition¬†Book of Mormon¬†was originally bound in brown¬†calfskin with seven double-banded gold [gilt] lines on the spine with a black label stamped “Book of Mormon“.¬† Almost all copies–over 99%– were bound with a black label.¬† However, there were a few¬†–perhaps two dozen–bound with red and tan labels.¬† Hyrum Smith had a tan label on his copy–as did Eliza Partridge.¬† There are only three known copies with a red label.
4) For almost three decades, between 1842-1871,  there were no copies of the Book of Mormon printed by the Church in America.  During this time, however,  there were four editions printed in Liverpool, England (1849, 1852, 1854 & 1866).

¬†The first three editions of the¬†Book of Mormon (1830, 37, 40)¬†placed the “Testimony of ¬†Three Witnesses” and also the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses”¬†at the end of the book–following the book of Moroni.¬† The 1841 Liverpool edition was the first edition to move the “witness” page to the front.

¬†The first edition¬†Book of Mormon¬†contains a “Preface”.¬† Joseph Smith felt¬†that a preface was necessary to address the loss of the 116 pages. ¬†“As many false reports have been circulated¬†respecting the¬†following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated by the gift and¬†power of God, and¬†caused to be written, one hundred sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me,¬†notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again….”. ¬†This preface is not included in any other edition.

¬†In 1851 the first foreign language edition of the¬†Book of Mormon (Danish)was printed. The French, German and Italian editions soon followed in 1852. The first Spanish edition¬†didn’t appear until 1886.¬† The German [1852] and the Hawaiian [1855] are the rarest of the foreign language editions.¬† Only about a dozen of each have survived.

¬†The first edition¬†Book of Mormon¬†shows “Joseph Smith, Jr.” ¬†as the “Author and Proprietor“. ¬† All subsequent editions of the¬†Book of Mormon¬†(1837 – present)¬†show Joseph Smith as the translator. ¬†

 The 1852 Book of Mormon (third European edition) was the first to number verses [paragraphs].  In 1879, Orson Pratt divided the Book of Mormon into smaller chapters and verses.  These are the same chapters and verses used in the current editions of the Book of Mormon.  

 There were 5,000 copies of the 
Book of Mormon¬†printed in 1830 at a cost of $3,000–or sixty cents each. The early missionaries, including Samuel Smith, sold these books for $1.25. ¬† Only about 500 of the original 5,000 copies have survived. ¬† Copies now sell for $75,000 – $100,000.¬† In fact, some of these earlier editions–which were owned by well-known Church leaders have sold in excess of one million dollars! ¬†
But, as President Hinckley said in¬†October 2007,¬†Recently a first¬†edition [Book of Mormon] sold for $105,000—but the cheapest paperback edition is as valuable to the reader who loves its language and message.”¬†
Reid N. Moon is the owner of Moon’s Rare Books in Provo, Utah.¬† He and his wife Melanie, and their four younger children are members of the Edgemont 14th Ward in Provo, Utah.