Letterbook 1

JS to N. C. Saxton • 4 January 1833

Kirtland 4th Jany. 1833—
Considering the Liberal prisciples [principles] upon which  your interesting and valuable paper is published and  myself being a subscriber and feeling a deep intrist [interest]  in the cause of Zion and in the happiness of my brethren  of mankind I cheerfully take up my pen to contribute  my mite at this every [very] interesting and important period
For some length of time I have  been car[e]fully viewing the state of things as now appear  throug[h]out our christian Land and have looked at it  with feelings of the most painful anxiety while upon  the one hand beholding the manifested withdrawal of Gods  holy Spirit and the vail of stupidity which seems to  be drawn over the hearts of the people and upon the  other hand beholding the Judgments of God that have swept and  are still sweeping hundreds and thousands of our race (and I fear  unprepared) down to the shades of death with this solemn and alarming  fact before me I am led to exclaim [“]O that my head were waters and  mine ey[e]s a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night &c.”  I think that it is high time for a christian world to awake out of sleep  and cry mightely to that God day and night whose anger we have  Justly incured. Are not these things a sufficient stimulant to  arouse the faculties and call forth the energies of evry man  woman and child that poseses feeling of sympathy for his fellow[s] or  that is in any degree endeared to the bud[d]ing cause of our  glorious Lord; I leave an inteligent community to answer  this important question with a confession that this is what  has caused me to overlook my own inability and expose my  weakness to a learned world but trusting in that God who has said  these things are hid from the wise and prudent and reve[a]led unto babes  I step forth into the field to tell you what the Lord is doing and  what you must do to enjoy the smiles of your saviour in these  last day[s]— — The time has at last come arived when the  God of Abraham of Isaac and of Jacob has set his hand again  the seccond time to recover the remnants of his people which have [p. 14]
“Letter Book A,” JS Letterbook 1, [ca. 27 Nov. 1832–ca. 4 Aug. 1835]; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, JS, Orson Hyde, and Oliver Cowdery; 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. The text block was likely sewn all along over recessed cords, but the book underwent conservation efforts in the late twen-tieth 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 vol-ume 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 origi-nal merchandising notes.
The first three leaves of the volume contain JS’s earliest extant attempt to write a history of his life. 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. 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 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 2—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.
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, Illinois, during the compilation of JS’s 1838–1856 history and is listed in the inventory of church records made in connection with the exodus from Nauvoo. The volume is likely accounted for in subsequent Historian’s Office inventories, which list multiple letterbooks. It is also listed in the 1973 register of the JS Collection. These archival records indicate continuous institutional custody.