Egyptian Alphabet, circa Early July–circa November 1835–A
Egyptian Alphabet, [, Geauga Co., OH, ca. early July–ca. Nov. 1835]; English in the handwriting of JS, , and ; hieratic and unknown characters in unidentified handwriting (likely JS and possibly Cowdery); five pages; Kirtland Egyptian Papers, CHL. Includes archival markings.Four leaves, the first measuring 12⅜ × 7¾ inches (31 × 20 cm), the second measuring 12½ × 15⅝ inches (32 × 40 cm), the third measuring 12½ × 15½ inches (32 × 39 cm), and the fourth measuring 12⅜ × 15⅜ inches (31 × 39 cm). Each leaf is ruled with about forty lines that are mostly faded. The first leaf is torn along the left side. The second, third, and fourth leaves are inscribed spanning the entire length of the oversized sheet. The first three leaves were inscribed on the rectos only, while the versos are blank. The fourth leaf is inscribed on both sides. JS added the title “Egyptian Alphabet” and the label “first degree” to the first leaf, although it appears they were written at different times. He also provided a heading to each inscribed leaf: “Egyptian alphabet first degree Second part” on the second leaf, “Egyptian alphabet first degree” on the third leaf, “Egyptian alphabet fourth part first degree” on the recto of the fourth leaf, and no heading to the verso of the fourth leaf. Three hand-drawn, vertical lines form four columns of varying width on the recto of the first leaf. Column lines were not drawn on subsequent leaves; the columns are demarcated by blank space. JS added no headings to the columns. Though four columns appear on the first leaf, the first column apparently served as a margin and is largely left blank. The second column contains copied characters. Instead of confining the transliterations to the third column and definitions to the fourth column, JS wrote the definitions immediately after the transliterations, ignoring the columns. On the recto of the first leaf, a blank line and a heading separate the first and second parts of the first degree from one another. On subsequent leaves, parts are set off only with a heading. The recto pages of the second, third, and fourth leaves are paginated on the upper left corner in JS’s handwriting. The first page may also have been paginated, but part of the left side of the page is now missing, as is the upper right corner.The oversized leaves were folded in half, likely for ease of storage. Following the production of this document, the four leaves were attached together with one or two pins. Pinholes along the upper right and lower right corner of the recto side of the leaves align with one another. Green oxidation and impressions from pinheads on the first leaf indicate the first leaf was placed first in this attached collection of leaves, suggesting that the leaves were arranged in the order in which they were paginated. Parts of the upper right corners of the first and second leaves are missing, likely as a result of damage caused by the pins. Significant staining is present throughout these leaves, caused by what appears to be an oil-based substance. The edges of some of the leaves are also brittle and worn. By the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, most of the leaves of the Egyptian Alphabet documents were docketed in blue ink with letters of the alphabet from A through I and T through X. Egyptian Alphabet–A bears the letters B and T through W on the tops of the inscribed pages, indicating that the leaves were not stored in their original order at the time they were docketed. The handwriting in which this labeling is inscribed is similar to that of early-twentieth-century apostle James E. Talmage. This document was presumably stored with the Egyptian material mentioned in periodic inventories of the Historian’s Office, which suggests continuous institutional custody.The images of the second, third, and fourth leaves presented here are composite images created by digitally combining images of the left and right side of each page.
With four columns on the first page, the format of Egyptian Alphabet–A is similar to the format of the other two Egyptian Alphabet documents, though JS failed to use all of the columns on the first leaf and did not replicate the formatting on subsequent leaves. The evolving use (or disuse) of columns and the varying page size both suggest that JS’s plans for presenting the information in the document changed as he worked. Starting at the fourth entry (1.4a, b), JS wrote the characters and the definitions—but not the sounds—for three consecutive entries. He later added the sounds above each line. This may reveal an emphasis on characters and definitions rather than pronunciation. Of the three Egyptian Alphabet documents, Egyptian Alphabet–A contains the most complete definitions for the final copied characters, which suggests that it may have been the last document updated before JS and his scribes ceased working on the project. The characters in this document were likely written by JS, given the similarity of the ink flow between the characters and the sounds and explanations that follow, which are in JS’s handwriting.