Letter, Caleb Atwater to Nauvoo Postmaster, 16 November 1842

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Circleville Ohio, Nov. 16, 1842.
I am the author of a work called “Western Antiquities,” first published 23 years since. It has passed through several editions. I surveyed nearly all our Western ancient works and at the time of its first publication it had a very extensive circulation both in Europe and , it being translated into nearly all the languages of Europe. It is now out of print and the work is scarce and dear. My first edition was sold at 4 doll[ar]s. a copy. It was adorned and illustrated by numerous copper plates and was a splendid work. I have thought of offering it to your prophet and people, greatly improved and enlarged, provided, I can be paid a reasonable sum for my labor and expenses of publication. I have the copper plates and could get it stereotyped at . It might be put on a size to suit your Mormon bible, and stand with it, on the same shelf. Great doubts exist as to the authors of our ancient works, that is whether they came from Asia across at Behring’s straits, and journeying onwards to Western ; then, progressing slowly in a south western direction until they reached and Peru: or, starting from the last [p. [1]] countries, they moved in a north eastern direction to Western . Perhaps, your prophet has found the words which they left buried in the earth, which inform us of all the migrations of that ancient people— the names of the plans they occupied as they moved onward— their military stations, their temples, their roads &c. The first cost of three thousand copies, would be $4000 or a dollar and twenty five cents a copy, to which must be added my personal expenses, boarding, travelling expenses, &c. say, in all, about $1.50 a copy for 3000 copies. If stereotyped, that expense must be added, and then, you could print as many editions as should be called for in Europe and . My work might stand by itself and the explanation of it, if the prophet should be able to explain from his old records, all the migrations of that wonderful people, might be bound with my work or separately, as he should choose.
I have no money to spare, otherwise I would get out a new and improved edition myself. I should need, about 300 British sovereigns to begin with, and the remainder might be paid as the work progressed. I would get it out, in six months after I began and have it well executed and a beautiful book, full of copper plates, worth 3 or 4 dollars a copy. [p. [2]]
As to my labor, my expenses all paid, I would take books for it, at their cost.
Should Lieutenant Genl Joseph Smith and the principal men of the Mormons see fit, to answer this letter, their communication might be addressed here, to
Your very humble servent
P.S. You can answer this yourself, if You see proper to do so, and save postage. My copy right has 18 years to run yet, by an act of congress— that I would sell, too, for a reasonabl compensation— less than I was offered for it, 3 years since. [p. [3]]
Circleville Ohio Novm 16— 42 [p. [4]]


  1. new scribe logo

    Circular postmark stamped in black ink.  

  2. new scribe logo

    Postage in unidentified handwriting.  

  3. new scribe logo

    Docket in handwriting of William Clayton.