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Editorial Method for Journals, Volume 1

The goal of the Joseph Smith Papers Project is to present verbatim transcripts of Joseph Smith’s papers in their entirety, making available the most essential sources of Smith’s life and work and preserving the content of aging manuscripts from damage or loss. The papers include documents that were created by Joseph Smith, whether written or dictated by him or created by others under his direction, or that were owned by Smith, that is, received by him and kept in his office (as with incoming correspondence). Under these criteria—authorship and ownership—the project intends to publish, either in letterpress volumes or electronic form, every extant Joseph Smith document to which its editors can obtain access. Certain routine documents, such as some notes and certificates and some legal or business documents, will be calendared and published in their entirety online with only samples published in the letterpress edition. The Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers presents an unaltered and unabridged transcript of each of Smith’s known journals.

Rules of Transcription

Because of aging and sometimes damaged texts and imprecise penmanship, not all handwriting is legible or can be fully deciphered. Hurried writers often rendered words carelessly, and even the best writers and spellers left out letters on occasion or formed them imperfectly and incompletely. Text transcription and verification is therefore an imperfect art more than a science. Judgments about capitalization, for example, are informed not only by looking at the specific case at hand but by understanding the usual characteristics of each particular writer. The same is true for deciphering spelling and punctuation. If a letter or other character is ambiguous, deference is given to the author’s or scribe’s usual spelling and punctuation. Where this is ambiguous, modern spelling and punctuation are favored. Even the best transcribers and verifiers will differ from one another in making such judgments. Interested readers may wish to compare our transcriptions with images of the original manuscripts at the Joseph Smith Papers website, josephsmithpapers.org, to better understand how our transcription rules have been applied to create these transcripts. Viewing the originals also provides other information that cannot be conveyed by typography.

To ensure accuracy in representing the texts, transcripts were verified three times, each time by a different set of eyes. The first two verifications were done using high-resolution scanned images. The first was a visual collation of the journal images with the transcripts, while the second was an independent and double-blind image-to-transcript tandem proofreading. The third and final verification of the transcripts was a visual collation with the original document. At this stage, the verifier employed magnification and ultraviolet light as needed to read badly faded text, recover heavily stricken material, untangle characters written over each other, and recover words canceled by messy “wipe erasures” made when the ink was still wet or removed by knife scraping after the ink had dried. The verified transcripts meet or exceed the transcription and verification requirements of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Scholarly Editions and the National Archives and Records Administration’s National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The approach to transcription employed in The Joseph Smith Papers is conservative by historical documentary editing standards. The transcripts render most words letter by letter as accurately as possible, preserving the exact spelling of the originals. This includes incomplete words, variant spellings of personal names, repeated words, and idiosyncratic grammatical constructions. The transcripts also preserve substantive revisions made by the journal keepers. Canceled words are typographically rendered with the strikethrough bar, while inserted words are enclosed within angle brackets. Cancellations and insertions are also transcribed letter by letter when an original word—such as “sparingly” or “attend”—was changed to a new word simply by canceling or inserting letters at the beginning or end of the word—such as “sparingly” or “attend<ed>”. However, for cases in which an original word was changed to a new word by canceling or inserting letters in the middle of the word, to improve readability the original word is presented stricken in its entirety, followed by the revised word in its entirety. For example, when “falling” was revised to “failing” by canceling the first “l” and inserting an “i”, the revision is transcribed as “falling <failing>” instead of “fal<i>ling”. Insubstantial cancellations and insertions—those used only to correct spelling and punctuation—are silently emended, and only the final spelling and punctuation are reproduced.

The transcription of punctuation differs from the original in a few other respects. Single instances of periods, commas, apostrophes, and dashes are all faithfully rendered without regard to their grammatical correctness, except that periods are not reproduced when they appear immediately before a word, with no space between the period and the word. Also, in some cases of repetitive punctuation, only the final mark or final intention is transcribed while any other characters are silently omitted. Dashes of various lengths are standardized to a consistent pattern. The short vertical strokes commonly used in early American writing for abbreviation punctuation are transcribed as periods, but abbreviation punctuation is not reproduced when an abbreviation is expanded in square brackets. Flourishes and other decorative inscriptions are not reproduced or noted. Punctuation is never added silently.

Incorrect dates, place names, and other errors of fact are left to stand. The intrusive sic, sometimes used to affirm original misspelling, is never employed, although where words or phrases are especially difficult to understand, editorial clarifications or corrections are inserted in brackets. Correct and complete spellings of personal names are supplied in brackets the first time each incorrect or incomplete name appears in a journal entry (unless the correct name cannot be determined). Place names that may be hard to identify are also clarified or corrected within brackets. When two or more words are inscribed together without any intervening space and the words were not a compound according to standard contemporary usage or the scribe’s or author’s consistent practice, the words are transcribed as separate words for readability. Journal entries appear in their original sequence, retaining the occasional out-of-order or duplicate entry.

Formatting is standardized. Original paragraphing is retained, except that the first paragraph of the journal entry is always run in with the original dateline. Standardized editorial datelines—typographically distinguishable from the text—have also been added before every entry for convenience of use. All paragraphs are given in a standard format, with indention regularized and with blank lines between paragraphs omitted. Block quotations of letters, minutes, revelations, and other similar items within entries are set apart with block indentions, even when, as in a few cases, such items are not set off in the original. Horizontal rules and other devices inscribed between entries to mark them off from each other are not reproduced. Line ends are neither typographically reproduced nor symbolically represented. Because of the great number of words broken across a line at any point in the word, with or without a hyphen, end-of-line hyphens are not transcribed and there is no effort to note or keep a record of such words and hyphens. This leaves open the possibility that the hyphen of an ambiguously hyphenated compound escaped transcription or that a compound word correctly broken across a line ending without a hyphen is mistakenly transcribed as two words. As many end-of-line hyphens have been editorially introduced in the transcripts, a hyphen appearing at the end of a line may or may not be original to the document.

Redactions and other changes made on the manuscript after the original production of the text, such as when later scribes used the journals for drafting history, are not transcribed. Labeling and other forms of archival marking are similarly passed by in silence.

Readers wishing to view those elements not reproduced in the letterpress volumes may consult josephsmithpapers.org. The website will include a detailed “diplomatic” transcript of the journals, including all redactions and other subsequently added elements, along with letter-by-letter presentation of all revisions. For example, Joseph Smith’s journal entry for 3 October 1835 is presented in the diplomatic transcript as follows:

Sate<u>rday 3d Oct held a<a> high council on the case of Elder John Gould for giving credence to false<e> and slanderous reports instigated to Injure bro Sidney Rigdon and also Dean Gould for thretning bro Sidney Rigdon and others in authority of the Elders,<.> after due deliberation the both confessed and wer acquited,<.>

In the afternoon waited on the twelve most of them at my house and exhibited to them the ancient reccords in my possession and gave explanation of the same thu<i>s the day passed off with the blessings of the Lord

The transcript in the letterpress edition gives less detail:

Saturday 3d Oct held a high council on the case of Elder John Gould for giving credence to false and slanderous reports instigated to Injure bro Sidney Rigdon and also Dean Gould for thretning bro Sidney Rigdon and others in authority of the Elders. after due deliberation the[y] both confessed and wer acquited.

In the afternoon waited on the twelve most of them at my house and exhibited to them the ancient reccords in my possession and gave explanation of the same thus <this> the day passed off with the blessings of the Lord

Transcription Symbols

The effort to render mistakes, canceled material, and later insertions sometimes complicates readability by putting Joseph Smith and his scribes behind the “barbed wire” of symbolic transcription. However, conveying such elements with transcription symbols can aid in understanding the text and the order and ways in which the words were inscribed. Typesetting can never effectively represent all the visual aspects of a document; it cannot fully capture such features as the formation of letters and other characters, spacing between words and between paragraphs, varying lengths of dashes and paragraph indentions, and varying methods of cancellation and the location of insertions. Despite its limitations, a conservative transcription method more faithfully represents the process by which the text was inscribed—especially cancellations and insertions—rather than just the final result.

The following symbols are used to transcribe and expand the text:

/nIn documents inscribed by more than one person, the slash mark indicates a change in handwriting. A footnote identifies the previous and commencing scribes.
[roman]Brackets enclose editorial insertions that expand, correct, or clarify the text. This convention may be applied to the abbreviated or incorrect spelling of a personal name, such as Brigham Yo[u]ng, or of a place, such as Westleville [Wesleyville]. Obsolete or ambiguous abbreviations are expanded with br[acket]s. Bracketed editorial insertions also provide reasonable reconstructions of badly miss[p]elled worsd [words]. Missing or illegible words may be supplied within brackets in cases where the supplied word is based on textual or contextual evidence. Bracketed punctuation is added only when necessary to follow complex wording.
[roman?]A question mark is added to conjectured editorial insertions, such as where an entire word was [accidentally?] omitted and where it is difficult to maintain the sense of a sentence without some editorial insertion.
[italic]Significant descriptions of the writing medium—especially those inhibiting legibility—and of spacing between the inscriptions are italicized and enclosed in brackets: [hole burned in paper], [leaf torn], [blank], [9 lines blank], [pages 99–102 blank].
[illegible]An illegible word is represented by the italicized word [illegible] enclosed in brackets.
An illegible character within a partially legible word is rendered with a hollow diamond. Repeated diamonds represent the approximate number of illegible characters (for example: sto◊◊◊◊s).
[p. x]Bracketed editorial insertions indicate the end of an originally numbered manuscript page, regardless of the location of the written page number on the manuscript page.
[p. [x]]Bracketing of the page number itself indicates that the manuscript page was not originally numbered and that the number of the page is editorially supplied.
underlinedUnderlining is typographically reproduced. Individually underlined words are distinguished from passages underlined with one continuous line.
superscriptSuperscription is typographically reproduced.
canceledA single horizontal strikethrough bar is used to indicate any method of cancellation: strikethrough and cross-out, wipe erasure and knife erasure, overwriting, or other methods. Individually canceled words are distinguished from passages eliminated with a single cancellation. Characters individually canceled at the beginning or end of a word are distinguished from words canceled in their entirety.
<inserted>Insertions in the text—whether interlinear, intralinear, or marginal—are enclosed in angle brackets. Letter<s> and other characters individual<ly> insert<ed> at the beginning or end of a word are distinguished from <words> inserted in <their> entirety.
boldJoseph Smith’s handwriting is rendered in boldface type. Bracketed editorial insertions made within passages of Smith’s own h[and]w[riting] are also rendered in boldface type.
textThe word text begins textual footnotes describing significant details not comprehended by this scheme of symbolic transcription.
|A line break artificially imposed in an original document is rendered as a vertical line in textual notes.

Annotation Conventions

The Joseph Smith Papers do not present a unified narrative. Annotations—including historical introductions, editorial notes, and footnotes—supply background and context to help readers better understand and use the documents. The aim of the annotation is to serve scholars and students of early Mormon history and American religious history generally, whose familiarity with these fields may vary widely.

The Papers cite original sources where possible and practical. Secondary sources of sound scholarship are cited when they usefully distill several primary sources. Quotations from primary sources preserve original spelling but silently emend cancellations and insertions (unless judged highly significant).

Certain conventions simplify the presentation of the annotation. Joseph Smith is usually referred to by the initials JS. The terms Saint, Latter-day Saint, and Mormon—all used by mid-1834 in reference to church members—are employed interchangeably here. Most sources are referred to by a shortened citation form, with a complete citation given in the Works Cited. Some documents are referred to by editorial titles rather than by their original titles or the titles given in the catalogs of their current repositories. These editorial titles are in some cases similar to informal names by which the documents have come to be known. The editorial titles are listed in the Works Cited along with the complete citations by which the documents can be found in repositories. The most important sources used in annotating a volume are discussed in the Essay on Sources preceding the Works Cited.

The volumes in this series use a citation style that lists all source citations at the end of the footnote. Because of the complexity of some footnotes and the difficulty readers might have in determining which source citations document particular statements within such footnotes, superscript letters are sometimes used to key specific statements to their corresponding documentation. Though it goes beyond conventional citation style, this detailed approach may best serve researchers using volumes of the Journals series as reference works.

The annotation extensively cites Joseph Smith’s revelations. Smith and his followers at first used the terms commandments and revelations interchangeably in referring to these dictations that they viewed as divine communications. During the mid-1830s, revelations—the term used throughout The Joseph Smith Papers to refer to these works—became standard. Many of these revelations were first collected and published, with numbered chapters and paragraphs (or verses), as the Book of Commandments in 1833. An expanded collection, organized into sections and with new versification, was published in 1835 as the Doctrine and Covenants. In 1844, at the time of his death, Smith was overseeing publication of a revised edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, which was published later that year. Since then, the Doctrine and Covenants has been published in several editions, each including newly canonized revelations or other items.

Source citations in this series identify revelations by their original date and by a citation of an early printed version relevant to the particular instance of annotation (usually the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants). In cases in which two or more revelations bear the same date, a letter of the alphabet is appended so that each revelation has a unique editorial title—for example, May 1829–A or May 1829–B. Revelation citations also include a bracketed “D&C” reference that provides the Doctrine and Covenants section and verse numbers that have been standard in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints since 1876. For example, the last portion of the revelation that provided a basis for the Mormon health code is cited as Revelation, 27 Feb. 1833, in Doctrine and Covenants 80:3, 1835 ed. [D&C 89:16–21]. Bracketed D&C references are provided for the benefit of Latter-day Saints, who can easily access the revelations in their familiar canon of scriptural works, and other students of early Mormonism who may wish to access the most widely available editions of these revelations. A table titled Corresponding Section Numbers in Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants is provided following the Works Cited to help readers refer from the cited version of a canonized revelation to other published versions of the same revelation. For more information about revelation citations, see the aforementioned table and the introduction to the Works Cited in Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839.

Smith’s revelations and revelatory translations published outside of the Doctrine and Covenants, such as the Book of Mormon, are referenced in The Joseph Smith Papers to an early published or manuscript version, with references to modern Latter-day Saint publications added in brackets. These books of Latter-day Saint scripture are described in more detail in the introduction to the Works Cited. When the Bible is used in annotation, the King James Version—the version read by Smith and his followers and contemporaries as well as by English-speaking Latter-day Saints today—is referenced.

In addition to the annotation in the main body of a volume, several supplementary resources in the back of each volume aid in understanding the text. As many of the places, people, organizations, and terms mentioned in the journals appear more than once, the reference material serves to remove duplicate footnotes and to otherwise systematically reduce the annotation in the main body. To minimize repetition and interruption, only rarely will annotation within the journals directly refer readers to the reference material in the back.

Many of the people whose names appear in the journals in this series have been identified. In most cases, information about these people appears in the Biographical Directory rather than in the notes. Some names have silently been left without identification either because resources did not permit research or because no information was found. Complete documentation for reference material in the back and for the timeline and maps included earlier in the volume will be made available at josephsmithpapers.org, as will other resources, including a complete calendar of Smith’s papers and expanded versions of many of the reference resources.

The Journals series will be indexed cumulatively in the final volume of the series. A printable, searchable index for volume 1 is available at josephsmithpapers.org.