Agreement with Martin Harris, 16 January 1830
JS, Agreement with , , Ontario Co., NY, 16 Jan. 1830; handwriting of ; signature of JS, witnessed by ; one page; Simon Gratz Autograph Collection, 1517–1925, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Includes redactions and archival marking. Transcription from digital color image obtained from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 2010.Document measures 3⅜–3⅝ × 7¾ inches (9 × 20 cm). Residue of red wax appears to be present following JS’s signature. Notations in graphite in unidentified handwriting on the verso read “ | Father of Jos. Smith, the founder | of Mormonism— & himself | one of the most prominent | of the Sect—” and “ | One of the most active of Smith’s | adherents—and his scribe in | the preparation of ‘The Book | of Mormon.’” The verso also includes an archival notation in graphite: “gratz | case 8 Box 17”.It is unknown when autograph collector Simon Gratz acquired this document. According to the register of the Gratz Collection, Gratz’s entire collection was deeded to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1917 and finalized shortly after his death in 1928.
This identification is incorrect; the agreement involved JS, not Joseph Smith Sr.
This document is an agreement between JS and , giving Harris the right to sell copies of the Book of Mormon until he collected enough money to cover the cost of printing, which he had funded, and thereby redeem his mortgaged farm. JS and Harris began negotiating with local printers to publish the Book of Mormon manuscript in the summer of 1829. After some convincing, printer agreed to print the book for $3,000. Harris pledged a 151-acre portion of his farm on 25 August 1829 to pay Grandin, and the printer then began work on the project.It seems that saw himself in the role of financier for the printing of the Book of Mormon early on in the process. newspaper editor Thurlow Weed, for example, recalled that JS and Harris approached him and that Harris “offered to be his [JS’s] security for payment.” John H. Gilbert, one of ’s employees, gave a similar report when he wrote: “Mr E. B. Grandin . . . came to me and said he wanted I should assist him in estimating the cost of printing 5000 copies of a book that Martin Harris wanted to get printed, which was called the ‘Mormon Bible.’ . . . Harris proposed to have Grandin do the job.” A JS revelation likely dictated soon after the negotiations with Grandin commanded Harris to “Impart a portion of thy property; Yea, even a part of thy lands and all save the support of thy family. Pay the printer’s debt.” The contract in which Harris pledged his lands was apparently executed shortly after the revelation was announced. JS and his associates initially planned to sell the Book of Mormon for $1.75, making it an expensive book in 1830. If they had sold all the books at that price, they would have collected $8,750. However, the price reportedly soon fell to $1.25, which still would have brought in twice the printing costs if all copies had sold.JS likely signed this agreement with during a brief visit JS made to to settle a copyright dispute with . The agreement gave Harris “equal privilege” to sell copies of the Book of Mormon until he had been reimbursed for the value of his property mortgaged to . This was not, however, the only JS document to deal with potential proceeds from the Book of Mormon. Soon after JS signed this agreement with Harris, a revelation directed JS and others to obtain the copyright of the Book of Mormon throughout the world, beginning with an attempt to sell it in . It stated the expectation that “the faithful & the righteous may retain the temperal Blessing as well as the Spirit[u]al” from the sale of the copyright. Such blessings would be extended to “those who have assisted him [JS]” in the work, except Harris, who was explicitly excluded., intent on recouping his investment, set out to sell books as soon as the first copies were available in late March 1830, but the results were disappointing. As later recounted, “The inhabitants of the surrounding country . . . gathered their forces together, far & near; and organizing themselves into a committee of the whole they resolved, as before, never to purchase one of our books.” According to , when he and JS arrived in in late March, Harris was already distressed and announced, “The Books will not sell for no Body wants them.” Harris continued his efforts to sell books, however; citizens of nearby later claimed that after the printing of the Book of Mormon, “Harris became very boisterous on the subject of the book and preached about the country in endeavoring to make sale of it.” His efforts to sell the books continued even after he moved to in the spring of 1831, when his property was sold. If a later report is correct, Harris eventually recovered the money he had paid for the printing of the Book of Mormon. In 1853 he reportedly stated, “I never lost one cent. Mr. Smith . . . paid me all that I advanced, and more too.”
See Historical Introduction to Revelation, ca. Summer 1829 [D&C 19].
See Historical Introduction to Copyright for Book of Mormon, 11 June 1829. This substantial sum clearly included a significant profit for Grandin after allowing for all his expenses—perhaps more than the average profit for printers, which was around 12 percent on top of printing costs. (Compare Hansard, Typographia, 797.)
Hansard, T. C. Typographia: An Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing; with Practical Directions for Conducting Every Department in an Office: With a Description of Stereotype and Lithography. London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1825.
Martin Harris to Egbert B. Grandin, Indenture, Wayne Co., NY, 25 Aug. 1829, Wayne Co., NY, Mortgage Records, vol. 3, pp. 325–326, microfilm 479,556, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. Initially, there may have been a plan for Harris to pay only half the cost of printing. Lucy Mack Smith later wrote that JS and Grandin agreed “that half of the price for printing was to be paid by Martin Harris, and the residue, by my two sons, Joseph and Hyrum.” Lucy was mistaken to report this as the final contract, however, which actually called for Harris to secure the entire cost. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 158.)
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
Thurlow Weed, Statement, New York City, NY, 12 Apr. 1880, in Dickinson, New Light on Mormonism, 261. Weed later became the editor of the Albany Evening Journal and one of the most influential and powerful leaders of the Whig Party in New York.
Dickinson, Ellen E. New Light on Mormonism. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885.
John H. Gilbert, Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892, photocopy, CHL. JS’s history offered this account: “Mean time our translation drawing to a close, we went to Palmyra, Wayne County, N. Y: Secured the Copyright; and agreed with Mr Egbert Grandon to print five thousand Copies, for the sum of three thousand dollars.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 34.)
Gilbert, John H. Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892. Photocopy. CHL. MS 9223.
Revelation, ca. Summer 1829 [D&C 19:34–35].
See, for example, “Mrs. Sylvia Walker’s Statement,” Naked Truths about Mormonism (Oakland, CA), Apr. 1888, 1; and Henry Harris, Affidavit, Cuyahoga Co., OH, [ca. Nov. 1833], in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 251–252. In 1831, JS instructed Martin Harris, “You will not sell the books for less than 10 Shillings [$1.25].” (Letter to Martin Harris, 22 Feb. 1831.)
Naked Truths about Mormonism: Also a Journal for Important, Newly Apprehended Truths, and Miscellany. Oakland, CA. Jan. and Apr. 1888.
Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.
See Historical Introduction to Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 28 Dec. 1829.
On 26 March 1830, Grandin offered copies of the Book of Mormon for sale, retail and wholesale, in his bookstore. (“The Book of Mormon,” Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 26 Mar. 1830, .)
Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.
Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 168.
Knight, Reminiscences, 6.
Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.
Nathaniel W. Howell et al. to Ancil Beach, Jan. 1832, in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 3:16.
Vogel, Dan, ed. Early Mormon Documents. 5 vols. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996–2003.
Wayne Co., NY, Deed Records, 1823–1904, vol. 10, pp. 515–516, 7 Apr. 1831, microfilm 478,786, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL. John H. Gilbert stated that the Book of Mormon “did not find a very ready sale at the outset, and Harris, who had mortgaged his farm to pay the printer’s bill, was cleaned out financially.” (“The Book of Mormon,” 618.)
U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.
“The Book of Mormon. Story of the Man Who First Printed It.” American Bookseller: A Semi-Monthly Journal Devoted to the Interests of the Book, Stationery, News, and Music Trades, and General Literature: With Which Is Incorporated the American Booksellers’ Guide 4, no. 12 (15 Dec. 1877): 617–618.
David B. Dille, “Additional Testimony of Martin Harris,” LDS Millennial Star, 20 Aug. 1859, 21:545.
Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star. Manchester, England, 1840–1842; Liverpool, 1842–1932; London, 1932–1970.