Paper, Papyrus and Printing

I think blogging can be fun, if you actually have something to say. It becomes somewhat less fun when you realize that you have nothing to say and have to post that nothing in order to get the grade in the class. And so here I post my nothing.

But seriously, I've been thinking back to when we went down to Special Collections for the mini seminar on the evolution of printing and publishing and how interesting it was. We got to hold cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia and look at old texts written in monasteries from way back when. It was especially neat to look at the illuminated manuscripts since we've talked about the technique and style of many of those in my art history class. (I actually mentioned a class other than astronomy or D&C!)

I'm not sure what exactly I wanted to say about the seminar, but I can certainly see the impact of this history of publication on the ultimate printing of the Book of Mormon. It wouldn't have been very practical for Joseph Smith to try and publish the Book of Mormon on clay tablets or papyrus scrolls. He needed the technology of bound books printed on paper. That made the book cheap enough to (somewhat) mass-produce. First printing in 1830 was 5,000 copies. Granted, it was still pretty expensive ($3,000-Martin Harris mortgaged part of his farm to help pay for it), but imagine how much more expensive it would have been to hand letter each and every copy on vellum. Exactly. I don't think it would have seemed worth it.

A couple summers ago I had a chance to go to Palmyra, NY and we went to the building where E.B. Grandin's print shop was. It is now a church-owned museum that goes though the history of printing the Book of Mormon. Here's a picture I took while I was there. This part is set up to look like the store that Grandin himself would have run. You can see some copies of the Book of Mormon on the shelves behind the counter. (You can click on the picture to see the whole thing.)

They also had a workshop set up with a printing press and all the various and sundry accessories they would have needed to run a print shop. There's also a museum here in Provo, the Crandall Museum, that talks all about the history of printing and publication and how it influenced the publication of the Book of Mormon. It's fascinating.

How grateful I am that they had that technology at the right time! The Book of Mormon truly is an inspired book and I am grateful that Joseph Smith had the faith, courage and means to have it published. Turns out I had a lot more than nothing to say after all.

1 comment:

James the Great said...

So, your blog is for a class?