Printing the Book of Mormon

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "The First Edition, 1830" in the book How We Got the Book of Mormon.)

Printing the Book of Mormon in Palmyra was Joseph’s first choice. He planned to go back to Harmony to live with Emma in their new home, leaving Oliver, Martin, and Hyrum to oversee the printing. Oliver could stay with the Smiths, who lived south of Palmyra village on Stafford Road, saving costs. But the strong attitudes that drove Joseph from Palmyra in the first place led Grandin to turn down the first invitation to print the book.

Joseph and Martin next went to Rochester, which was more than twenty miles away. Rochester was a fast-growing city up the Erie Canal from Palmyra where they hoped to find someone open-minded and ambitious enough to take on the project. After being turned down twice more, they finally found a Rochester publisher willing to print the book. Before signing a contract with him, however, the men decided to return to Grandin and try one more time.

Grandin had two concerns. First, he doubted the book would sell well enough to cover his costs and turn a profit. The project was big for a young country printer, and he wasn’t eager to tie up his equipment on a losing proposition. Second, not all of his neighbors were enthusiastic about the book, and he didn’t want to disappoint them or make them think he bought into this newfangled faith in any way.

Martin Harris solved the first problem by agreeing to mortgage his farm to assure Grandin that he would be paid. And passing up the offer wouldn’t stop the book from being printed, Joseph and Martin pointed out, since a Rochester publisher was willing to print it. Not wanting to lose a sure profit, Grandin counseled with friends, who agreed with his printing the book as long as he did it strictly for business reasons. Grandin told Joseph he would do it.

The contract called for Grandin to print five thousand copies for three thousand dollars, a large print order for its day. Grandin went to work advertising for more help in his print shop and ordering a new type font—he would need a lot of metal type for this job. ...

The printing job was reportedly the largest ever done in the county, and both Grandin (the printer) and Howard (the binder) had to take on extra help to do the job.

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