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Oliver Cowdery’s Copy of the Book of Commandments

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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’s copy of the Book of Commandments was used, along with several other source texts, by the editors of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants as they were preparing JS’s revelations for publication in that volume. Cowdery and William W. Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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made editorial marks throughout this copy of the Book of Commandments, and it is possible that other unknown individuals also made marks. The editors marked and edited within this copy some of the revelations that were to be included in the new publication and then used this copy to set type for some portions of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
Readers should consult the featured version of the Book of Commandments for an analysis of the printing of the Book of Commandments.
 
Explanation of Editing Marks
A brief explanation of each type of editing mark is provided here.
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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wrote “Covenants” in graphite at the head of sixteen revelations in his copy of the Book of Commandments, all of which appear in the first 21 sections of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.1

In one case (chapter 1), the penciled notation reads “Covenants 1” rather than “Covenants.” Except section 8, all of the sections from 1 through 21 of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants that were also published in the Book of Commandments are marked with the “Covenants” notation in the Cowdery copy. The sixteen chapters Cowdery marked with the “Covenants” notation correspond to Doctrine and Covenants 1, 2, 9–21, 1835 ed. [D&C 1, 20, 24, 29, 35, 38, 42–43, 45–46, 50, 58–59, 63–64]. Two chapters in the Book of Commandments (44 and 47) were combined into section 13 of the 1835 publication. The texts in Doctrine and Covenants 3–7, 1835 ed. [D&C 107, 84, 102, 86, 88], were not published in the Book of Commandments.  


Various pages throughout the book are marked with a capital “S” in red grease pencil.2

Editors also used red grease pencil to mark up other sources for publication in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants. In two cases in the Book of Commandments, the “S” is not in red grease pencil but in graphite: chapter 39 (page 80) and chapter 41 (page 86) [D&C 37 and 39]. (See “Table 3: Relationship between Items in Revelation Books 1 and 2 and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.”)  


All texts published in both the Book of Commandments and the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants bear this “S” mark in Cowdery’s Book of Commandments except chapter 28 and those chapters that correspond to sections 68 through 72 of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants (chapters 57, 58, 61, 62, and 63).3

Doctrine and Covenants 68–72, 1835 ed. [D&C 55–56, 60–62], are the last sections of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants to have used the Book of Commandments as a source text.  


Though the precise meaning of the letter is unknown, this notation suggests a systematic survey of the contents of the volume to ensure that all the revelations in the Book of Commandments were included in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
Several other editing marks were inscribed in 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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’s copy of the Book of Commandments. Editors added paragraph marks and numerals on many pages to denote versification for the 1835 publication. A bracket or parenthesis in Cowdery’s Book of Commandments at times corresponds to a line ending in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.4

See, for example, page 27.  


To denote deletions, editors usually struck through words and phrases or marked them with an “X.” To denote additions, editors usually inserted individual words or phrases. When revisions were too lengthy or complex to indicate on the small pages of the Book of Commandments, editors sometimes referred the copyist or typesetter to some other source by marking passages with a caret or similar mark, which was sometimes accompanied by a notation such as “see” in the margin.5

See, for example, page 8.  


In other cases where revisions were complex, editors circled passages that were to be ignored in the Book of Commandments in favor of some other source text.6

See, for example, page 10.  


Thus, typesetters or copyists worked directly from the Book of Commandments until they reached a caret or a passage that had been circled, at which point they presumably turned to an additional source now no longer extant. Where a passage in the Book of Commandments referred to a person by first name or first name and initial, surnames were sometimes written in by hand and other times a caret was inscribed after the name, indicating that the copyist or typesetter should add the surname.7

See, for example, page 126.  


The Cowdery copy of the Book of Commandments also contains three additional editing marks whose purpose is unknown.8

The marks, which are similar to one another, appear in Book of Commandments 39 (page 79), 41 (page 85), and 42 (page 87), which correspond to Doctrine and Covenants 58, 59, and 60, 1835 ed. [D&C 37, 39, 40].  


The following table provides a comprehensive list of the editing marks found in the 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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volume. The first column of the table lists the number of each chapter of the Book of Commandments. The second column provides the standard date for the item included in each chapter and a bracketed “D&C” reference to the section number in which the item appears in the 1981 (and 2013) Latter-day Saint edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.9 The third column identifies the editing marks found in each chapter of the Cowdery Book of Commandments. In this column, “Covenants” and “‘S’ mark” refer to the commonly appearing marks described above (in cases when “S” marks are found on pages other than the first page of a chapter, the numbers of those pages are identified in parentheses). The term “editing marks” as used in this column refers to all other types of editing marks made by editors, as described in the immediately preceding paragraph. The fourth column lists the number of the section in which each item was published in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.
Key to column titles
1833:Book of Commandments
Date:Date of item, followed by section number in Doctrine and Covenants, 1981 (and 2013) edition, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Editing Marks:Editing marks in the Oliver Cowdery copy of the Book of Commandments
1835:Doctrine and Covenants, 1835 edition, part 2
1833DateEditing Marks1835
11 Nov. 1831–B [D&C 1] “Covenants 1”; “S” mark; editing marks 1
2July 1828 [D&C 3] “S” mark; editing marks 30
3Feb. 1829 [D&C 4] “S” mark; editing marks 31
4Mar. 1829 [D&C 5] “S” mark; editing marks 32
5Apr. 1829–A [D&C 6] “S” mark 8
6Apr. 1829–C [D&C 7] “S” mark; editing marks 33
7Apr. 1829–B [D&C 8] “S” mark; editing marks 34
8Apr. 1829–D [D&C 9] “S” mark; editing marks 35
9ca. Apr. 1829 [D&C 10] “S” mark; editing marks 36
10May 1829–A [D&C 11] “S” mark 37
11May 1829–B [D&C 12] “S” mark 38
12June 1829–A [D&C 14] “S” mark 39
13June 1829–C [D&C 15] “S” mark 40
14June 1829–D [D&C 16] “S” mark 41
15June 1829–B [D&C 18] “S” marks (pp. 34, 35) 43
16Mar. 1830 [D&C 19] “S” mark 44
17Apr. 1830–A [D&C 23:1–2] “S” mark 45:1
18Apr. 1830–B [D&C 23:3] “S” mark 45:2
19Apr. 1830–C [D&C 23:4] “S” mark 45:3
20Apr. 1830–D [D&C 23:5] “S” mark 45:4
21Apr. 1830–E [D&C 23:6–7] “S” mark 45:5
226 Apr. 1830 [D&C 21] “S” mark; editing marks 46
2316 Apr. 1830 [D&C 22] “S” mark 47
2410 Apr. 1830 [D&C 20] “Covenants”; “S” mark 2
25July 1830–A [D&C 24] “Covenants”; “S” mark 9
26July 1830–C [D&C 25] “S” mark 48
27July 1830–B [D&C 26] “S” mark 49
28ca. Aug. 1830 [D&C 27] 50
29Sept. 1830–A [D&C 29] “Covenants”; “S” mark 10
30Sept. 1830–B [D&C 28] “S” mark; editing marks 51
31Sept. 1830–C [D&C 30:1–4] “S” mark 52:1
32Sept. 1830–D [D&C 30:5–8] “S” marks (pp. 69, 70); editing marks 52:2
33Sept. 1830–E [D&C 30:9–11] “S” mark 52:3
34Sept. 1830–F [D&C 31] “S” mark 53
35Oct. 1830–B [D&C 33] “S” marks (pp. 72, 73) 55
364 Nov. 1830 [D&C 34] “S” mark 56
377 Dec. 1830 [D&C 35] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 11
389 Dec. 1830 [D&C 36] “S” marks (pp. 78, 79) 57
3930 Dec. 1830 [D&C 37] “S” mark (p. 80); editing marks 58
402 Jan. 1831 [D&C 38] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 12
415 Jan. 1831 [D&C 39] “S” mark (p. 85, 86); editing marks 59
426 Jan. 1831 [D&C 40] “S” mark; editing marks 60
434 Feb. 1831 [D&C 41] “S” mark 61
449 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:1–72] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 13:1–19
45Feb. 1831–A [D&C 43] “Covnants” “S” mark; 14
46Feb. 1831–B [D&C 44] “S” mark 62
4723 Feb. 1831 [D&C 42:73–93] “Covenants”; “S” mark 13:20–23
48ca. 7 Mar. 1831 [D&C 45] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 15
49ca. 8 Mar. 1831–A [D&C 46] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 16
50ca. 8 Mar. 1831–B [D&C 47] “S” mark 63
5110 Mar. 1831 [D&C 48] “S” mark 64
527 May 1831 [D&C 49] “S” marks (pp. 116, 117) 65
539 May 1831 [D&C 50] “Covenants”; “S” mark 17
546 June 1831 [D&C 52] “S” mark; editing marks 66
558 June 1831 [D&C 53] “S” mark; editing marks 6610

The second of the two sections numbered 66.  


5610 June 1831 [D&C 54] “S” mark; editing marks 67
5714 June 1831 [D&C 55] editing marks 68
5815 June 1831 [D&C 56] editing marks 69
591 Aug. 1831 [D&C 58] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing marks 18
607 Aug. 1831 [D&C 59] “Covenants”; “S” mark 19
618 Aug. 1831 [D&C 60] editing marks 70
6212 Aug. 1831 [D&C 61] editing marks 71
6313 Aug. 1831 [D&C 62] editing marks 72
6430 Aug. 1831 [D&C 63] “Covenants”; “S” mark; editing mark 20
6511

Because the printing office was destroyed, this revelation was not printed in full.  


11 Sept. 1831 [D&C 64] “Covenants”; “S” mark 21

Facts