In April 1839, as the last devout Saints were leaving Missouri, they dug up the printing press and type, hauling them to Illinois. That summer in Nauvoo, Joseph’s brother Don Carlos and a printing partner, Ebenezer Robinson, set up temporary shop in a dank cellar and began cleaning the dirt-encrusted type. They had worked together in the Kirtland print shop, and in Nauvoo they built a new one and began printing a newspaper called Times and Seasons.
In the December issue of the paper, they reported receiving many requests for books published by the Church. Regrettably, the scriptures and other works were “all disposed of.” As a result, the First Presidency and high council of the Church voted “that the Book of Mormon be re-printed in this place, under the inspection of the Presidency, as soon as monies can be raised to defray the expenses.”
Getting money, however, was the challenge. As persecuted refugees who had lost their Missouri property, few Saints had means to lend. In April 1840, Ebenezer and Don Carlos put an ad in the Times and Seasons, seeking to borrow a thousand dollars “to be appropriated to book printing.” Nothing happened. They tried again the next month, this time asking for half the amount. Still no success.
If only they could raise some money, they hoped to have the book typeset and stereotyped in the east. Setting type for a large book was laborious and had to be repeated for each printing unless a mold was made of the set type and plates cast from it. The plate, called a stereotype, could be used to print copies when needed. Once the stereotyping was done, they could take the plates back to Nauvoo for printing.
In late May, as Ebenezer entered the print shop, he had what he considered to be a divine manifestation. “It seemed that a ball of fire came down from above and striking the top of my head passed down into my heart,” he said. It told him, “in plain and distinct language,” just what to do to publish the Book of Mormon.
The inspiration was to have the book both stereotyped and printed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Normally, it would take months to create stereotype plates in Cincinnati and months more to print books from them once the plates reached Nauvoo. Now Ebenezer planned to begin printing pages in Cincinnati as soon as the first plate was finished. That way, most of the printing would already be finished when the last plate was made.
They still needed money, but Ebenezer now knew how to solve that problem. He would send circulars to the branches of the Church, promising to send them 110 copies of the Book of Mormon for every hundred dollars they sent for printing. “God promised [me] that by the time we got the books out we would have money enough to pay for them,” Ebenezer recalled. “From that minute I knew just what to do.”