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Frederick G. Williams Copy of Abraham Manuscript, circa October 1835 [Abraham 1:4–2:6]

Frederick G. Williams Copy of Abraham Manuscript, circa October 1835 [Abraham 1:4–2:6]

HThe land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who  was the daughter of Ham; and the daughter of Zep-tah.  which in the Chaldea signifies Egypt, which sign[i]fies that  which is forbidden. Whin this woman discovered the land  it was under water, who after settled her sons in it:  And thus from Ham sprang the that race which preserved  the curse in the land.
HNow the <first> government of Egypt, was established by Pharaoh  the eldest sun son of Egyptes the daughter of Ham; and it was  after the manner of the government of Ham, which was  Patriarchal. Pharaoh being a righteous man establish ed his kingdom, and Judged his people wisely and  Justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that  order established by the fathers in the first generation  in the days of the first Patriarchal reign, even in  the reign of Adam. And also Noah his father. For  in his days who blessed him with the blessing<s> of  the earth, and of with the blessings of wisdom, but  cursed him as pertaining to the priesthood.
HNow Pharaoh being of that leniage by which he could not  have the right of priesthood; notwithstanding the Pharaohs  would fain claim it from Noah through Ham: Therefore,  my father was led away by their—idolitry; but I shall  indeaver hereafter to dilliniate the chronology run<n>ing  back from myself to the begining of <the> creation, for  the reccords, have came come into my hands whi<c>h I hold  unto this present time
HNow after the priest of Elkkeenah was smitten that he  died, there came a fulfilment of those thing<s> which  were spoken unto me concerning the land of Chal dea, that there should be a fam[i]ne in the land; and  accordingly a famine prevailed throughout all  the land of Chaldea: And my father was sorely  tormented because of the famine, and he repented  of the evil which he had determined against me,  to take away my life: But the reccords of the fathers  even the patriarchs concerning the right of priesthood,  the lord my God preserved in mine own hand<s:>
[p. [3]]
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Napoleon Bonaparte’s late-eighteenth-century adventures, depredations, and exploits unintentionally inaugurated an age of exploration and inquiry into Egyptian antiquities. Subsequently, sometime between 1817 and 1821, an Italian explorer, Antonio Lebolo, uncovered a tomb near Thebes, Egypt, containing a large cache of mummies and papyri. Later, eleven of the mummies were sent to New York City under what remain curious circumstances. In late June or early July 1835 some of the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, purchased four Lebolo mummies and associated papyri from Michael Chandler, an antiquities dealer visiting the area. (Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 1.) JS’s close associate William W. Phelps reported on these events to his wife, Sally, then in Missouri: “On the last of June four Egyptian mummies were brought here. With them were two papyrus rolls, besides some other ancient Egyptian writings. . . . They were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said that the rolls of papyrus contained a sacred record kept by Joseph in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt and the teachings of Father Abraham.” Phelps added, “These records of old times when we translate and print them in a book will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon.” (William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Phelps, Liberty, MO, 20 July 1835, in Journal History of the Church, 20 July 1835, CHL.)
Later that year, in response to public excitement prompted by “erroneous statements” circulating in the press concerning the Egyptian artifacts, correspondence between Oliver Cowdery, another close associate of JS, and a William Frye of Illinois was printed in the December 1835 issue of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Published under the heading “Egyptian Mummies – Ancient Records,” Cowdery’s letter to Frye endeavored to set the record straight concerning “a quantity of ancient records.” After reviewing the circumstances surrounding acquisition of the artifacts and describing some papyri in detail, Cowdery observed in closing, “When the translation of these valuable documents will be completed I am unable to say; neither can I give you a probable idea how large volumes they will make. . . . Be they little or much, it must be an inestimable acquisition to our present scriptures.” (“Egyptian Mummies – Ancient Records,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1835, 2:223–227.)
By the time the Messenger and Advocate account was published, JS, Cowdery, Phelps, and JS’s scribes Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish had invested portions of the previous six months working with the Egyptian materials. JS’s journal for the period from October to December 1835 contains nine entries recording activity directly associated with the Egyptian documents. One product of their endeavors was a draft transcription of what was designated the Book of Abraham, a first-person narrative recounting a portion of the life of the biblical patriarch Abraham.
The text featured here represents the Abraham text drafted in fall 1835 and is in the hand of Frederick G. Williams, who served as one of JS’s scribes at that time. It consists of two pages, front and back, covering what is now referred to as Abraham 1:4−2:6 in the Pearl of Great Price. The text of the first line may be related to the Egyptian materials acquired from Chandler, but nothing definitive has been determined. The manuscript also contains nineteen Egyptian hieratic characters (a cursive form of hieroglyphics) in the left margins. These hieratic characters were taken from the papyri purchased from Chandler, but their exact significance and relationship to the text remains undetermined.
That the text is organized into paragraphs with some punctuation, and that it contains several cancellations and insertions of the sort often associated with recopying a document, suggests that it may have been transcribed from an earlier draft. The manuscript has been in the possession of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the Nauvoo period. (Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 64–65.)
Note: When an Egyptian hieratic character appears on the manuscript, it is represented by a stylized “H” in the transcript. The transcript of the Book of Abraham excerpt presented here is used with permission of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. It was published earlier, with some differences in style, in Brian M. Hauglid, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2010), 66–81.

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