Go Behind the Printing of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon

On March 26, 1830, an announcement in the Wayne Sentinel, a local Palmyra newspaper, announced the first copies of The Book of Mormon were officially on sale in E.B. Grandin’s bookstore.

Since that time, over 160 million copies, translated into 110 languages, have been distributed across the globe. But few Church members know the full story behind the first printing. Here are 5 facts you should know about E.B. Grandin, the remarkable technology used, and what was sacrificed.

  1. Facing Rejection. After obtaining the copyright, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery set out to find a printer for The Book of Mormon. The first printer we have on record as being approached was the daring 23-year-old  Egbert Bratt Grandin, friend of Martin Harris and owner of printing shop and local newspaper. Grandin turned them down, citing worries about religious implications, at which point Joseph turned to printers in Rochester, over 25 miles away. Luckily, Grandin had a sudden change of heart when Martin told him the printing was going to occur. According to Grandin’s grandson, he changed his mind “after consulting friends who felt that it was merely a business matter and that he would be in no way related to the religion.”
  1. Iron Printing Press. During Joseph Smith’s time, wooden printing presses had been the norm. But with the rise of metal presses, everything began to change and Grandin, with his entrepreneurial spirit, bought a state-of-the-art iron handpress in early 1829. Printing of the Book of Mormon began later that year. For a small frontier newspaper, printing over 2 million pages in seven months, with more than 1,000 pulls of the press a day, the effort to print the Book of Mormon was remarkable. Read more about the miraculous printing process here.
  1. First Order. There were 5,000 copies printed for the first edition of The Book of Mormon. Grandin required $3,000 as a guarantee to the printing cost, which was provided by Martin Harris who mortgaged his farm. However, this further estranged Martin from his wife and was seen as the act effectively ending his marriage.
  1. Versification. The first edition of the Book of Mormon was published in chapter format, without verses. Punctuation was added by the compositor John H. Gilbert, who also noted multiple grammatical errors, which were improved in later editions.
  1. The Printing Shop. E.B. Grandin, just three years after printing the Book of Mormon, was forced to sell his shop. He only lived another twelve years after that. Looking back, Grandin only had his printing shop and its state-of-the-art technology active for four years, with the majority of the time spent in the printing of the Book of Mormon.
When researching the printing of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, the evidence of the hand of God is clear. What does the Book of Mormon mean to you?

(Information courtesy of From Gutenburg to Grandin: Tracing the Development of the Printing Press by Keith J. Wilson)



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