Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts Volume Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts tracks the development of the Book of Abraham from the time Joseph Smith and others purchased Egyptian papyri in 1835 through the publication of the Book of Abraham text and its accompanying illustrations in the church newspaper Times and Seasons in 1842.

The volume introduction, “Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts,” has been published on the Joseph Smith Papers website.

“This latest volume offers readers an unprecedented look at the manuscripts and earliest publications of the Book of Abraham,” explains Robin Scott Jensen, one of the volume’s coeditors. “But it also takes readers inside Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian papyri before he dictated the Book of Abraham—which is a history with which few Latter-day Saints are familiar.”

The volume contains three main groups of documents: (1) the extant fragments of the Egyptian papyri purchased by Joseph Smith and his associates in 1835; (2) the documents that collectively constitute the “Egyptian-language documents,” which are associated with the attempt by Joseph Smith and his associates to decipher Egyptian characters from the papyri; and (3) the manuscripts and first publication of the Book of Abraham. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 is one of just a handful of volumes in The Joseph Smith Papers to be presented as a “facsimile edition”—with full-color photographs of all the documents and typographic facsimiles of all English-language material.

The Book of Abraham, today found in the volume of Latter-day Saint scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price, presents a narrative of Abraham’s journey from Ur to Egypt, a description of his activities in Egypt, an account of the creation of the world, and doctrinal teachings on topics such as the eternal nature and premortal existence of spirits and the plan for a Savior for humankind. Even before the Book of Abraham was published in 1842, Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints described it as a divinely inspired translation of Egyptian papyri. Wilford Woodruff, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated in 1842 that “the Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam, which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us.” While Joseph Smith and his contemporaries referred to his work on the Book of Abraham as a translation, Smith had no prior knowledge of the Egyptian language and relied instead on divine revelation to produce the text.

Introductions in Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 illuminate the history of the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian language by situating them in the broader historical context of an international flowering of interest in ancient Egypt and of Joseph Smith’s other translation projects. With high-resolution images and transcripts created to the highest standards of documentary editing, this volume is an invaluable resource for those studying Joseph Smith’s prophetic translations.

Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, edited by Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid, is available now. Visit the Published Volumes page for more information.