Letterbook 1

“Letter Book A,” JS Letterbook 1, [ca. 27 Nov. 1832–ca. 4 Aug. 1835]; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, JS, Orson Hyde

8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...

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, and Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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; ninety-three pages, including one inserted leaf of an incomplete index (table of contents); JS Collection, CHL. Includes redactions, use marks, and archival marking.
This letterbook was inscribed in a medium-size, commercially produced blank book. The book’s ledger paper is horizontally ruled with thirty-six (now faint) blue lines and vertically ruled with four red lines; the paper in the final gathering, however, is missing the horizontal lines. The original book apparently contained nine gatherings of twelve leaves each, but eight leaves were cut from the final gathering.1

The remnants of five of the leaves are visible. The eight excised leaves are no longer extant.  

The text block was likely sewn all along over recessed cords, but the book underwent conservation efforts in the late twentieth century and was rebound. The leaves measure 12⅝ × 7¾ inches (32 × 20 cm). The pastedowns and flyleaves were blank white paper. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and a tight-back case binding with a brown calfskin quarter-leather binding. The bound volume measures 12⅞ × 8 × ⅞ inches (33 × 20 × 2 cm). The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with brown body and veins of blue and red. The front pastedown bears the inscriptions “c=c/i” and “/i=”, possibly original merchandising notes.
The first three leaves of the volume contain JS’s earliest extant attempt to write a history of his life.2

These three leaves were later cut from the volume but have since been reattached. For further information about these leaves and the history inscribed on them, see JS History, ca. Summer 1832.  

Later, the book was turned over so the back cover became the front and the last page became the first. One or more texts were inscribed in this side (the back) of the book on the eight leaves that were later cut out, as is evident from inscriptions visible on the remaining stubs of the excised leaves.
The volume was also repurposed as a letterbook. The letterbook begins on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history). The letters occupy ninety-three pages. The book’s pagination also began anew with the copied letters. The first page of letters bore the inscription “1a”, which is only partially extant on the now-trimmed page but is complete in photocopy and microfilm copies at the Church History Library.3

The photocopy may have been made from the microfilm. The letterbook was filmed on 12 November 1968. (Microfilming Report, entry no. JP 1068, Historical Department, Microfilm Reports, 1949–1975, CHL.)  

Page 78 is blank. The front flyleaf is now missing—possibly because it bore a title related to the history and was removed when the volume was converted to a letterbook. The letters were copied with quill pens in ink that is now brown. The pagination appears to have been added at different times and possibly in different hands. There are 101 blank pages between the end of the letter transcripts and the excised pages in the back of the book. There is illegible ink transfer on page [130] from a loose leaf document that was placed between pages [130] and [131] before its ink had dried. There are also smudges of ink on some of the succeeding pages.
At some point, Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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began an index or table of contents that identifies the letters copied into pages 1–25 of the letterbook. This incomplete index is inscribed on paper that does not match the original ledger paper. It was apparently a loose leaf inserted in the volume—as is Williams’s index to the contents of Revelation Book 24

At some point, Williams’s index for Revelation Book 2 was attached with adhesive wafers to the inside front cover of the revelation book. (See JSP, MRB:412–413.)  

—although it is currently bound in the front of the volume as a result of the late twentieth-century conservation. The index is horizontally ruled with forty-three manually inscribed graphite lines.5

This index does not list the history.  

The front cover of the book is labeled “Letter Book | A”, in black ink. The “A” is written in a formal style that matches the covers of other manuscript volumes in the holdings of the Church History Library. On the spine, a paper label with the hand-lettered title “KIRTLAND LETTER BOOK” was pasted over an earlier, now only partially visible title, “L[tr?] | B[k?]”, written in black ink. These inscriptions are in unidentified handwriting. A small “3” is stamped in dark brown ink at the bottom of the spine. Graphite use marks and copy notes on some pages were apparently made in connection with work on JS’s 1838–1856 history.
A reconstruction of the physical history of the artifact helps explain the current material context of the document. Photocopy and microfilm images of the book, as well as an inspection of the conservation work now present in the volume, indicate that the text block separated from the binding at some point. The entire volume was rebound, apparently in the 1990s, including the formerly loose leaf containing a partial index of letters. The back flyleaf was replaced with a leaf of laid paper.
Letterbook 1 was used in Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

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, Illinois, during the compilation of JS’s 1838–1856 history6

See, for example, JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4; compare JS History, vol. A-1, 240–243.  

 and is listed in the inventory of church records made in connection with the exodus from Nauvoo.7

“Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” [1].  

The volume is likely accounted for in subsequent Historian’s Office inventories, which list multiple letterbooks.8

“Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” [1]; “Historian’s Office Inventory G. S. L. March 19. 1858,” [1], Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.  

It is also listed in the 1973 register of the JS Collection.9

Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 7.  

These archival records indicate continuous institutional custody.
JS evidently wrote his history on the first three leaves of the book in summer 1832.10

See Frederick G. Williams, Statement, no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL; JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4. For more information on the dating of the history, see Historical Introduction to JS History, ca. Summer 1832.  

The excised pages in the back of the book were apparently inscribed sometime after the history and before the letterbook. On 27 November 1832, while residing at Kirtland, Ohio, JS wrote a lengthy letter to William W. Phelps, who earlier that year had settled at Independence, Missouri. JS’s missive included a reminder emphasizing the importance of record keeping and history writing to the young church.11

JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4.  

JS’s dispatch to Phelps coincided with a new record-keeping initiative in Ohio and became the first entry recorded in what was subsequently designated “Letter Book A.” Beginning on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history) are ninety-three pages of copied outgoing letters, dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835. The copy of JS’s 27 November 1832 letter to Phelps was apparently copied into the book from the original letter before the original was sent.12

It is possible that a fair copy of the letter was made on loose leaves before it was sent, and that this fair copy was later used to make the copy of record in JS Letterbook 1. There is no evidence, however, of an intermediate copy.  

In the next nine pages, Frederick G. Williams and JS copied six items of Oliver Cowdery correspondence from 1829 and 1831. The remainder of the book appears to be a register of outgoing correspondence that was continually updated as letters were written (and before they were sent). Williams made most of the copies, with Orson Hyde, Cowdery, and JS occasionally helping. There are copies of thirty-four letters. The letters reflect ongoing communications within the church, especially from the church members in Ohio to the church members in Missouri. Pages 38–44 contain explanations of a plat for the city of Zion (in Jackson County, Missouri) and plans for a temple to be built there. These explanations were also sent from Ohio to Missouri. The volume appears to have been used as an active register of letters throughout 1833 and 1834. A final item copied into the volume was a letter written on or soon after 4 August 1835, the date of a council whose resolutions were transmitted in the letter.13

JS, Letter, Kirtland, OH, ca. 4 Aug. 1835, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 90–93.  

The first seven letters in the letterbook are numbered, possibly in an early attempt to create a registry of documents. The entire record was apparently created in Kirtland.