In October 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery obtained the Bible that was later used in the preparation of Joseph Smith’s new translation of the Holy Scriptures. It was a quarto-size King James translation published in 1828 by the H. and E. Phinney company of Cooperstown, New York.The Prophet and his scribe likely did not know that their new book would one day become an important artifact of the Restoration, and they probably also never considered the position in history that their purchase had already earned. Both the text within its pages and the physical object itself were the products of a long and fascinating history by which the Lord’s word was brought into the hands of millions of Christians in the early United States. The Prophet’s continuing work with the Phinney Bible would add to its legacy. In this article, we will examine Joseph Smith’s Phinney Bible, the history of the Bible in the English language and in America, the roots from which the Phinney Bible descended, and the way it was used in the creation of the Joseph Smith Translation.
The English Bible in America
Bibles arrived in America with its earliest European settlers, and there is no question about the Bible’s role as their most important book and perhaps the single most important influence on their culture. The Puritans (including the members of the 1620 Plymouth Colony) brought the Geneva Bible, first published in 1560, a mainstay of early English Protestantism that was heavily influenced in its translation and marginal notes by the teachings of John Calvin. Other immigrants brought the Bishops’ Bible, first published in 1568, the Church of England’s more mainline and less revolutionary translation that had been the “authorized version” for half a century. But in time, because of political circumstances and the quality of the work itself, the translation undertaken at the direction of King James I, which was published in 1611, supplanted all others and became the Bible of choice for Protestant colonial Americans. For them, the King James translation eventually became the Bible in America.
The first Bible printed in the colonies was a 1663 translation into the Massachusett Indian language by John Eliot, a Puritan pastor who was engaged in missionary work among Native Americans. Two years previously he had published the New Testament separately. Eliot’s Bible was followed by later editions of the same translation and others in different Native American tongues.America’s first European-language Bible was a German Martin Luther translation published in 1743. Even though the majority of European colonists were English speakers, English-language Bibles were not printed in America during the colonial period but were imported from Britain. The reasons include both politics and economics. By British law, only printers who were granted a royal franchise were allowed to print the King James translation. Additionally, the well-established English and Scottish presses could produce Bibles much less expensively than could American presses, and their Bibles were of superior quality. There was no market for American English-language Bibles because colonial printers were not in a position to compete with those of the mother country.
Circumstances changed with the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1775. After the colonists declared their independence from Britain, they no longer felt constrained to honor the crown’s copyright on the King James translation. Seven different American printers published editions of the New Testament during the Revolutionary War.The first of these was Robert Aitken, who published his in 1777. Aitken was the printer to the Continental Congress, a fact that helped him receive permission for the publication of his full Bible in 1782—the first complete English-language Bible printed in America. It was a small volume of about 3" × 6" and about fifteen hundred pages long. The typesetting and printing were simple and clean, and the book was professionally done, though modest and unassuming compared to the more sophisticated Bibles available from Europe.
Aitken’s legacy is one of both good and bad timing. His good timing enabled him to earn a well-deserved place in history with an important American first. But his bad timing was that shortly after his Bible came off the press, the hostilities with Britain ended, and much more attractive and inexpensive English Bibles again overtook the American market. Aitken was left with most of his ten thousand copies unsold. He died a poor man.
With independence from Britain, coupled with an expanding national consciousness and a rapidly growing market, American book publishers soon found ways to compete with the established firms of Europe and to succeed where Aitken did not. Three pioneer printers characterized the enterprising spirit of the new nation and contributed much to creating the American print industry. They were Isaac Collins, Isaiah Thomas, and Mathew Carey.
Isaac Collins, of Trenton, New Jersey, and later of New York, had published two editions of the New Testament during the conflict with the British. In 1791 he published his first complete Bible, a quarto edition of five thousand copies. It was available with a variety of options and with or without the Apocrypha. An instant success, Collins’s Bible was well respected and soon became an industry standard. His firm went on to publish many more Bibles in his lifetime and in the lifetime of his children.Isaiah Thomas, of Worcester, Massachusetts, was a printer of extraordinary talent and creativity. In 1791 he published an impressive folio Bible that is as important for its illustrations as for the quality of its printing. Thomas’s Bible contained fifty finely executed copperplate images in a rococo style that featured monumental poses, elaborate borders, and cherubs. His contemporary, Mathew Carey, took a different approach with his illustrations; in place of the idealized, quiescent images of Thomas’s Bible, Carey’s plates emphasized passion, action, and drama. But in time, the more realistic illustrations of other publishers would carry the day.
Mathew Carey was an Irish Catholic immigrant to Philadelphia with tremendous foresight and ambition.In 1790 he printed America’s first quarto Bible. It was also America’s first Rheims-Douay Version, the standard English Roman Catholic Bible translated from the Latin Vulgate. Carey continued to publish the Rheims-Douay Version, but he soon found that his best market would be for the King James translation, and he entered the competition for its Protestant readers with great energy, beginning with an important quarto edition in 1801. In a short time, Carey would become “the foremost printer and publisher of the Bible in America.” His success was primarily the result of his ability to mass-produce relatively inexpensive Bibles with many options. His Bibles came in different sizes, with different types of paper, in different leather bindings, with different packages of commentaries, concordances, and lists, and with different options for pictures. Thus they met the needs of a broad spectrum of consumers. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Carey published some sixty separate editions of the Bible. At any given time, as many as twenty of his editions were in print.
When one compares Robert Aitken’s Bible of 1782 with those of Collins, Thomas, and Carey, which appeared only a few years later, one can see why the latter three succeeded and Aitken did not. Aitken’s Bible, though nicely produced, contained the biblical text and nothing more, aside from a brief introductory note displaying his endorsement from Congress. In contrast, subsequent Bibles were garnished by illustrations of many kinds, marginal cross-references, lists, concordances, indexes, and a variety of other add-ons and attractions. To a large extent it was these, and not the biblical text, that determined whose edition the reader would buy. As a result, much creativity was employed in producing Bibles with the right look and with the right combination of features.
With the dramatic increase in the production of books of all kinds soon after the Revolutionary War, the science of printing made steady improvements. While the basic technology remained much as it had been since Johann Gutenberg in the fifteenth century, the level of sophistication that American printers demonstrated in their work continued to rise. Along the way, technological advances made books less expensive to produce. Mathew Carey charged $10 for his 1801 King James Bible;his 1816 Bibles ranged from $3.75 to $20.00. By the late 1820s, most Bibles were selling for about $3 or $4, and by midcentury a fine Bible could be purchased for under $1.
Typesetting and Stereotyping
Joseph Smith’s 1828 H. and E. Phinney Bible advertised itself proudly as a “stereotype edition.” Stereotyping was, in fact, the newest development in printing technology in the Prophet’s day, and because of it the Phinney Bible was among the best available in the United States.
Before the end of the nineteenth century, typesetting consisted of setting in place on the page, by hand, a small piece of metal type for each letter, each punctuation mark, each line, and each space. An average single page in the first edition of the Book of Mormon consisted of about twenty-five hundred pieces of metal tightly held together. An average quarto Bible page consisted of at least sixty-five hundred pieces.Depending on how much type the compositor had, after the printing of one or two signatures—sheets containing eight or sixteen pages—the type usually had to be returned to the cases from which it had been taken. Then the next signature could be set, reusing the same pieces of type. For small items, printers could afford to keep their type standing, that is, to leave the forms intact without redistributing the type into the cases. That way they could reprint the same item each time there was a need, without additional labor costs and without the potential of making new errors. Standing type was thus desirable for projects that were intended to be reprinted—like Bibles. But for an item as large as a Bible, standing type was extraordinarily expensive. Few printers could afford the millions of pieces of type that were required for a job so large—type that would be unavailable for other projects. And the storage space needed for the standing type for a whole Bible was excessive. Even so, aggressive mass-producers like Isaiah Thomas and Mathew Carey soon were printing Bibles from standing type. Carey’s first quarto from standing type was published in 1804, and it was reprinted many times until 1816.
The technology that revolutionized the economics of Bible printing was stereotyping, a process by which a single thin metal plate was made that contained an entire page of text. From a page set by hand, a mold was made from which the stereotype plate was cast. The plates could be used repeatedly, allowing the indefinite reprinting of popular books.Stereotyping was first used in the United States in about 1812, from plates imported from England. Shortly thereafter, American printers learned the skill and began creating plates of their own. The first Bible printed in the United States from domestically made plates was in 1815. Isaac Collins produced the first stereotype quarto edition in 1816. Only five years later, half of the Bible editions printed in America were stereotyped. For both publisher and consumer, stereotype books were very attractive: labor costs for new editions were reduced dramatically, as also was the likelihood of errors in the text. Where errors were found, they could be repaired on the plate without retypesetting anything else on the page. Although stereotype books were desirable, the technology was difficult and expensive, and few publishers actually did their own stereotyping. Hills suggests that most Bibles printed before mid-century were stereotyped by “only two or three firms,” and she identifies eight Bibles produced by other publishers that derive from plates made by one company—H. and E. Phinney of Cooperstown, New York.
The Text of the King James Translation
Joseph Smith’s Cooperstown Bible, like other Bibles of its time and like our Bible today, was the product of a long evolution of the King James translation. When the King James Version was first published in 1611 by the king’s printer, Robert Barker of London, it was not immune to typographical errors. Many were found and corrected in the 1613 second edition. But that edition introduced its own imperfections, as did subsequent editions.Among the most notorious early King James printings were “the Wicked Bible” of 1631, in which the word not was left out of the seventh commandment, resulting in “Thou shalt commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14); and “the Unrighteous Bible” of 1653, in which Paul wrote, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall [in place of shall not] inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Cor. 6:9). A 1795 Bible has Jesus saying, “Let the children first be killed” instead of filled (Mark 7:27). Scores of less-noticeable errors came and went over the translation’s history. A 1629 Cambridge edition introduced at 1 Timothy 4:16 the error “Take heede unto thy selfe, and unto thy doctrine,” in place of “and unto the doctrine,” an error that was perpetuated in many later editions, including Aitken’s and other American editions. Our Bible today still has the probable misprint “strain at a gnat” in place of “strain out a gnat” at Matthew 23:24. Building on misunderstandings and errors made inadvertently by typesetters, problems came about because there never was one official “master copy” of the King James translation from which all others derived.
Early American publishers took their text from the best-available British editions. But Isaac Collins noted that “the different European copies of the Bible, even those printed at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh, often varied, and sometimes in the use of important words.”He explained that he took the text in his Bibles “from the Oxford edition of 1784 by Jackson and Hamilton—and [was] particularly attentive in the revisal and correction of the proof-sheets with the Cambridge edition of 1668 by John Field—with the Edinburgh edition of 1775 by Kincaid, and, in all variations, with the London edition of 1772 by Eyre and Strahan.” Where there were differences, he picked from one of those British Bibles the words that “appeared to be most agreeable to the Hebrew of Arias Montanus, and to the Greek of Arias Montanus and Leusden,” except in spelling, where he “generally followed Johnson.” To assure accuracy in his typesetting, Collins had his proofs scrutinized by committees under the direction of Dr. John Witherspoon, the highly respected president of New Jersey College (now Princeton University), after which he had each page proofed eleven more times. Isaiah Thomas obtained the text for his 1791 Bible by examining almost thirty diverse editions of the King James Bible and selecting from them the best readings. He then employed the assistance of local clergy and others to carefully check his proofs before the pages went to press. Mathew Carey used eighteen previous editions to establish the text for his 1801 Bible, including four from London, three from Cambridge, three from Oxford, six from Edinburgh, and the American editions of Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas. He reported that he found “a most extraordinary number of discrepancies, some of which are incredible,” and he listed some of them in the introduction to his Bible.
But other factors also contributed to the difficulty. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, certain aspects of the King James text remained fluid to some degree. The translation was made before there was a consensus on English orthography, and thus even in the early years there were significant variations in spelling. Barker’s 1611 first edition has the spellings “publique” (Matt. 1:19), “musicke” (Luke 15:25), and “heretike” (Titus 3:10), all of which were gone in a few decades. At 1 Timothy 4:16, the 1611 edition reads, “Take heed unto thy selfe.” Barker’s 1630 edition reads, “Take heede unto thy selfe.” His edition of only four years later reads, “Take heed unto thy selfe,” and his edition of 1639 reads, “Take heed unto thy self.” The spelling thyself (one word) was not standardized until the mid-eighteenth century. Spelling continued to evolve in later printings, but inconsistently in the hands of various publishers. Punctuation underwent the same development as common usage changed over time and as publishing firms adjusted their rules. Carey was not overstating the matter when he said that the punctuation differences between Bibles were “innumerable.” He gave as an example Genesis 26:8, which had “eight commas in the Edinburgh, six in the Oxford, and only three in the Cambridge and London editions.”The punctuation of the King James edition used today differs in the vast majority of verses from that of the first King James printings.
In 1769 Benjamin Blayney of the Oxford University Press published a routine corrected edition of the King James Version, with only modest improvements over a similar new edition of just a few years earlier. Over the course of time, this edition (after its own errors were identified and corrected) came to be viewed as the standard for British publishing houses, and it remains so today.In America, where publishers like Collins, Thomas, and Carey had turned to various British printings for models, Collins’s 1791 text soon came to be seen as the standard of correctness, and some other American publishers advertised their Bibles as being based on the Collins text. That position was later assumed by the American Bible Society. By the 1830s, several American publishers touted their Bibles as “Corrected According to the Standard of the American Bible Society” or used similar words.
For all the variations that have come and gone over the years in the King James translation, the words themselves have remained remarkably constant. Aside from spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, and the errors that inevitably result from typesetting by hand, the words in our modern King James Bibles are virtually identical to those of Bibles from the early seventeenth century and from those of the early United States. Spelling and punctuation evolve with each generation, but the remarkable preservation of the King James words shows that most publishers viewed them as beyond improvement.
The Phinneys and Their Bibles
Elihu Phinney, a native of Connecticut, moved with his family from Canaan, New York, to the frontier settlement of Cooperstown, New York, in February 1795, bringing with him the equipment from his print shop.He reported over a decade later that he “in the winter of 1795, penetrated a wilderness, and ‘broke a track,’ through a deep snow with six teams, in the ‘depth’ of winter, and was received [in Cooperstown] with a cordiality, bordering on homage, to preserve which has ever been his aim.” In Cooperstown he soon established a business next door to the courthouse—a bookstore and printing establishment. He began publishing a newspaper, the Otsego Herald, and in time began publishing books and a popular almanac called Phinney’s Calendar. His bookstore offered a variety of works by several publishers. An early advertisement in the Herald listed an impressive 350 titles in his stock. His store also sold other items not generally associated with bookstores today, including swords, spectacles, tobacco, “valuable medicines,” walking canes, and onion, beet, and cabbage seeds. Working with him in his printing business were two of his sons, Henry and Elihu Jr. (fig. 1). By 1809 they had established a shop of their own, which they worked in cooperation with their father. Elihu Sr. built a thriving business, and it was doing well when he died in 1813. But the two Phinney brothers expanded on his foundation to make the family enterprise not only one of the largest and most important businesses in town but soon a significant contributor to the national print industry. Elihu Jr. and Henry became prosperous and important citizens, as is evidenced by the size of their houses and their many contributions to civic affairs. In time they left the newspaper business, but they continued to publish their almanac, which eventually grew to an annual circulation of a hundred thousand. In their book publishing, they gravitated into three areas of specialization: educational books, children’s books, and Bibles.
The first Phinney Bible was a New Testament published in 1813. It was not printed in the Phinney shop, but the copublisher was listed as “H. & E. Phinney, Jun.”After Elihu Sr.’s death, the company would be known as “H. & E. Phinney” until 1849. In 1817 the Phinney brothers printed their first Bible in their own shop, a small-size New Testament. Over the years they continued to publish separate New Testaments and later the entire Bible in small formats, but their greatest contribution to printing Bibles would be in the quartos they would soon produce in large numbers, one of which would make its way into the hands of Joseph Smith. The quarto size, generally about 9" × 12", was not a pulpit edition nor a pocket edition but what we now often call the “family Bible.” Americans were buying them in large numbers by the 1820s. The Phinneys never reached the top echelon of Bible publishers in America, but they certainly were major players in the industry. To keep their presses supplied, they built (or bought) a large papermill, first as partners with someone else and later apparently as sole owners. Taking advantage of the latest in technology, they established their own stereotype foundry. Their four-story brick shop, with compositors, presses, and bindery above, and the bookstore on the ground floor, was located around the corner from their father’s original building. Their first quarto Bible was published in 1822, each signature being painstakingly typeset, proofed, and then cast into stereotype plates. It was an edition of five hundred. Between that first edition and their last from Cooperstown in 1848, the Phinneys would publish their quarto Bible each year, for a total of 138 editions and more than 150 thousand copies.
In the early morning of February 2, 1849, a fire broke out in the Phinney building that soon destroyed it along with its most important content (fig. 2). The inventory of the ground-floor bookstore was saved, but the type cases, presses, stereotype plates, paper, bindery, and unfinished books were lost, with everything else from their printing establishment. A local newspaper published a somber report of the fire and of the Phinneys’ enormous losses. Following the news article was a note from Henry and Elihu Phinney thanking the firefighters and other citizens for their valiant efforts and expressing gratitude that their neighbors’ buildings were not similarly destroyed.In a short time, however, the town’s sorrow over the misfortune of two of its leading citizens and a major Cooperstown business was replaced by other emotions. On February 22, the village trustees issued a notice entitled “Five Hundred Dollars Reward.” In the announcement it was revealed that the fire was the work of an arsonist. The Phinneys had received anonymous threats for some time, including a recent one in which the writer claimed responsibility for the fire.
The destruction of their shop put the Phinneys temporarily out of business. But within a year they published another quarto Bible, this time out of Buffalo, to which the company had relocated after the fire. The firm was now called “Phinney & Co.,” and its guiding hands were those of a new generation, sons of Elihu Jr. and their associates. The Phinney stereotype plates were destroyed in the fire, so to produce the new edition, the Phinneys bought plates from another company—a company that apparently had bought its plates from the Phinneys some years earlier. Phinney and Company continued to publish quarto Bibles until 1859.
The fire represented the effective retirement of Henry and Elihu Phinney. Henry died in 1850 and was remembered as “leaving an instructive example of talents and integrity with industry and frugality, resulting in respectability and wealth.”Elihu, one of the most “highly respected citizens” of Cooperstown, died in 1863 and was praised as being “prominently identified with almost every good enterprise which was carried forward during his active career,” including support of religion, education, and business.
The 1828 Phinney Bible
H. and E. Phinney’s 1822 Bible set the course that all their quartos would follow thereafter, including the 1828 edition owned by Joseph Smith. Because the plates were stereotyped, changes would be made only sparingly over the years, and thus the last Cooperstown edition of 1848 is virtually identical to the first of 1822. Typographical errors could be corrected, but at least one made in 1822 was not changed until 1832, perhaps showing the company’s reticence to tamper with the stereotype plates once they were cast.Over the course of repeated printings, stereotype plates developed signs of wear such as a loss of sharpness or breaks in letters. In 1840 the Phinneys set new type for worn page numbers on several of the plates, and they completely retypeset the introductory essay, “To the Readers.”
Joseph Smith’s Phinney Bible includes an impressive collection of lists, references, and tables that were printed before, after, and between the Testaments (descriptions are found in the appendix, below). These were identical in all H. and E. Phinney editions, but none were original to the Phinney Bible. Most of them had been printed for years by other publishers, though rarely is there attribution to an earlier source.
In addition to the standard add-ons printed in all Phinney quartos, the potential buyer did have some options. As with the Bibles of other publishers, options were available in the kind of cover the Bible had and in the quality of paper. The popular “Brown’s Concordance” was occasionally added at the back of Phinney Bibles, printed on its own signatures and paginated separately from the rest of the book. The Apocrypha, the collection of ancient books that are part of the Roman Catholic canon but are not accepted as scriptural by Protestants, was included in most Bibles in the early United States. About two-thirds of the Phinney quartos contained it.In Phinney Bibles, the Apocrypha was printed on its own signatures in a smaller font with separate pagination, totaling ninety-nine pages. It could be inserted or not, depending on the needs of the particular model. Joseph Smith’s Phinney Bible included the Apocrypha.
Like the Apocrypha, the illustrations were not printed on the signatures with the Bible text but were inserted into the book at the bindery. They were generally printed on paper that was stiffer than that on which the Testaments were impressed. The precise number, selection, and placement of illustrations in any given Bible may have been to some degree at the whim of employees in the bindery because few were exactly alike. In the 1828 Bibles, Phinney’s deluxe picture package included fifteen in the Old Testament and five in the New Testament, including frontispieces at the beginning of each. Joseph Smith’s 1828 Phinney contains seven illustrations in the Old Testament and two in the New. None of the ten 1828 copies I have examined have exactly the same selection and placement.
Illustrations in the earliest American Bibles seem to modern tastes to be overwrought—overly stylized and monumental as in the case of Isaiah Thomas’s 1791 folio or overly dramatic and carnal as in the case of Mathew Carey’s 1801 quarto. Through 1824, Phinney used illustrations very similar to those in Thomas’s Bible. But by then, Americans were more comfortable with simpler and more realistic scenes. The woodcuts included in Phinney Bibles from 1825 on were standard fare for their time, providing modest and reasonable depictions of biblical events as they were envisioned to have happened (fig. 3). None of them include the name of the artist, but some of the same pictures can be found in other publishers’ Bibles with the artists identified. That the Phinneys printed the illustrations for their own Bibles is clear in the fact that the scripture references and page numbers to the Phinney Bible are printed beneath each picture.
With all the borrowing that took place from one publisher’s Bible to another, it is difficult to determine the immediate source of the features in any given Bible. Resembling the H. and E. Phinney quarto are Mathew Carey’s standing-type editions from 1804 to 1816 and the Collins stereotype edition of 1816.But the Bibles closest to Phinney appear to be D. D. Smith’s 1820 quarto from New York and the 1823 (date uncertain) quarto of Kimber and Sharpless, Philadelphia. Both of these were stereotyped by the firm of Elihu White of New York. They have much in common with Phinney Bibles, including the same add-on features. Though clearly printed from different plates, the Phinney and the Elihu White Bibles are page-by-page equivalents, proving some kind of direct connection between the two firms.
In terms of design and physical appearance, most Bibles produced in early nineteenth-century America had a common look. Phinney’s title page (fig. 4) is strikingly similar to that of Collins, but in its layout and typography, the Phinney Bible leans more toward Carey. And the Elihu White Bibles bear an even closer resemblance to Phinney’s. All these have the following in common (see fig. 6): two columns of type with a dividing line between them; Canne’s references in the left and right margins with a date at the top of each; italicized running heads flush left and flush right summarizing content; centered running heads giving the capitalized book name on even-numbered pages and the chapter numbers in Roman numerals on odd-numbered pages; and two-line drop-caps at the beginning of each chapter. But none of these features were unique to any of these Bibles; many American quartos in the first three decades of the nineteenth century could be described in similar terms. The Phinney brothers may have used a number of contemporary Bibles as models for the layout of their stereotype edition of 1822–48.
The Text of the 1828 Phinney Bible
Regardless of what can be said about the origin of the tables, lists, and layout of the Phinney Bible, the evidence suggests that the text itself derives ultimately from contemporary Bibles of the Cambridge University Press, probably by way of the 1816 Collins quarto and Elihu White’s 1820 quarto published by D. D. Smith. In a comparison of over three hundred verses between the 1828 Phinney and the 1816 Collins, I found only rare and inconsequential differences in punctuation, and all are likely attributable to typographical errors.In contrast, comparisons with Carey and some other contemporary Bibles showed many more punctuation differences. Collins noted that he took his text from an Oxford edition of 1784, but comparisons of punctuation and orthography between Collins and contemporary British Bibles show Collins to be virtually identical to a Cambridge edition but significantly different from an Oxford edition. The Elihu White Bibles are closest to Phinney in spelling also, again suggesting a common genesis. Whatever the origin of all these Bibles may have been, it is safe to say that the texts of American Bible makers such as Collins, Elihu White, and Phinney descended from a respectable and mainstream King James tradition.
In spelling, Collins and related Bibles like Phinney differ from the archaic system of Oxford Bibles of their generation and follow the more modern spelling used then by Cambridge.Examples include certain words of Classical derivation, such as Cæsarea > Cesarea (Acts 10:1), Cæsar > Cesar (Acts 11:28), and Judæa > Judea (Acts 11:29). The archaic -ick endings are changed to the more modern -ic, as in publick > public (Matt. 1:19), musick > music (Luke 15:25), and heretick > heretic (Titus 3:10). Other spellings are also in more contemporary forms, such as enquire > inquire (2 Kgs. 1:2–3) and intreat > entreat (Ruth 1:16). Bibles by Collins and Phinney have all these changes.
But the Elihu White and Phinney Bibles went even farther in their modernizing. Other obsolete words that were changed in them (but not in Oxford, Cambridge, or Collins) include astonied > astonished (Jer. 14:9), stablish > establish (2 Thes. 3:3), amongst > among (Gen. 23:9), and alway > always (2 Sam. 9:10).Not all of these changes were made consistently, however, showing that while the process of modernizing these words was apparently intended to be systematic, it did not always succeed. The single most common difference between the Phinney Bible and other editions, including the Collins, is in the form of possessive pronouns and indefinite articles before words that start with the letter h. The King James translators used the word an before words that begin with h, even when that letter is pronounced (though they did so inconsistently and there are several exceptions). Thus we have an hundred (Gen. 5:28), an holy (Ex. 19:6), and an heritage (Ps. 127:3). In the Phinney Bible, these are changed to forms consistent with the speech of modern readers: a hundred, a holy, and a heritage. Similarly, possessive pronouns before the same words are changed to the modern forms: mine house > my house (Jer. 12:7) and thine heritage > thy heritage (Joel 2:17). There are hundreds of these changes in the Phinney Bible, as well as in the contemporary Elihu White Bibles.
In short, though the Phinney Bible and related editions used the same words in the same places as other Bibles—carefully preserving the exact text of the King James translation—they used contemporary forms of King James words in many instances, in harmony with the appropriate usage of their own generation. This is precisely what other reputable publishers of the King James Version had been doing since its second edition of 1613. Thus without being a “new translation” or even a “revision,” Joseph Smith’s Phinney’s Bible contains a more modern form of the King James Version than was used generally in the 1820s. And, significantly, it is a more modern form than the edition used by English-speaking Latter-day Saints today. But most important is the fact that the Phinney edition, with its more contemporary spelling and usage, is the King James text that underlies the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.
Joseph Smith’s Acquisition of His Cooperstown Bible
Henry and Elihu Phinney faced the same challenges as other publishers of their time regarding how to market their books once they came off the press. A generation earlier, Mathew Carey had become prosperous by selling books through an agent who traveled beyond the eastern seaboard into America’s interior.As for the Phinneys, they built large traveling stores on wagons, “ingeniously constructed to serve as locomotive bookstores.” They had “moveable tops and counters, and their shelves were stocked with hundreds of varieties of books.” These could be on the road whenever weather permitted, and they would keep Phinney products flowing into the expanding settlements. But the Phinneys’ most innovative outlet was their floating canalboat bookstore. The Erie Canal, which began opening in 1819 and was completed in 1825, was successful in its mission to connect the east coast of the United States with many of its distant towns. Linking Albany with Buffalo, it facilitated the fast and convenient transport of passengers and goods that allowed western towns to grow and to share in the unique culture that was developing in the new republic. The Phinney brothers recognized the canal’s potential for the dissemination of their products, so they constructed a canalboat to move their publications from east to west. The floating bookstore served as an outlet for local customers along the way, and it supplied retailers with volumes from the Phinney presses. In the winter, the boat would remain stationary in one of the larger settlements. When the ice cleared in the spring, travel up and down the canal could resume.
One of the villages along the Erie Canal was Palmyra, New York. There Egbert B. Grandin was publisher of a weekly newspaper called the Wayne Sentinel. Grandin had owned a print shop and bookstore since 1826. In his store, he sold stationary, business forms, and books of many sorts. In fall 1828, he moved his business into a new three-story facility on Palmyra’s Main Street near the center of the village. The typesetting and the presses were located on the third floor, the bindery was on the second floor, and the bookstore was on the ground floor. In his print shop, he took on various small jobs until the spring of 1829, when he changed his advertisement from “Job Printing” to “Book and Job Printer.”His book-printing business was a short-lived enterprise, but it produced a most significant volume—the five-thousand-copy Book of Mormon. Through most of 1829, Grandin advertised his bindery and his “circulating library,” both of which he sold that fall to a partner, Luther Howard. Grandin advertised his books in almost every issue of the Sentinel. For five months, he ran a long notice which he identified as a “Catalogue, in part, of his present stock of Miscellaneous Books.” Among the advertised books were Bibles—“large & small.”
By late summer 1829, Joseph Smith had contracted with Grandin for the printing and binding of the Book of Mormon. The typesetting began in August and continued into the following spring. During that time, Oliver Cowdery copied pages of the original manuscript as needed and took the copies to Grandin’s shop for the compositor. He and others went there frequently to deliver new manuscript sections and to proof the typeset sheets as they were prepared. On October 8, 1829, possibly during one of these visits, Oliver Cowdery bought at Grandin’s store the 1828 H. and E. Phinney quarto Bible. Joseph Smith was in Harmony, Pennsylvania, when the Bible was purchased.
It is not difficult to speculate how E. B. Grandin obtained the Bible he sold to Oliver Cowdery. Phinney book wagons were active in New York State, but most likely Grandin purchased the Bible from the Phinney book boat. The Erie Canal ran about two hundred yards from Grandin’s establishment, and the boat must have passed through Palmyra several times while Grandin was in business there. It seems only reasonable that he occasionally purchased items from that Phinney outlet to be sold in his Palmyra shop, including quarto-size Bibles. In the Bible that Oliver Cowdery purchased from Grandin’s store, he wrote in large letters on the first blank page inside the front cover, “The Book of the Jews And the Property of Joseph Smith Junior and Oliver Cowdery” (fig. 5). Because the inscription notes Joseph Smith first as owner, the Bible probably was bought at his direction. We do not know precisely why the Prophet and his scribe obtained it. Its service in the new translation of the Bible was still months away, and there is no indication that Joseph Smith knew of that project as early as October 1829. But certainly a good Bible would be indispensable for the ongoing work of the Restoration—for the understanding of future revelations, for teaching the gospel, for preparing public sermons, and for other uses in the soon-to-be-established Church of Christ.
The New Translation
Not long after the Church was organized in the spring of 1830, Joseph Smith began a careful reading of the Bible to revise and make corrections in accordance with the inspiration he would receive. From that labor came the revelation of much truth and the restoration of many of the “precious things” that Nephi had foretold would be taken from the Bible (1 Ne. 13:23–29). In June 1830, the first revealed addition to the Bible was set to writing. Over the next three years, the Prophet made inspired changes, additions, and corrections while he filled his calling to provide a more correct translation for the Church. Collectively, these are called the “Joseph Smith Translation.”
The first revelation of the Joseph Smith Translation is what we now have as Moses 1 in the Pearl of Great Price—the preface to the book of Genesis. Beginning with Genesis 1:1, the Prophet apparently had the Bible before him and read aloud from it until he felt impressed to dictate a change in the wording. If no changes were required, he read the text as it stood. Thus dictating the text to his scribes, he progressed to Genesis 24, at which point he set aside the Old Testament as he was instructed in a revelation on March 7, 1831 (see D&C 45:60–62). The following day, he began revising the New Testament. When he completed John 5 in February 1832, he ceased dictating the text in full to his scribes and began using an abbreviated notation system. From that time on, it appears that he read the verses from the Bible, marked in it the words or passages that needed to be corrected, and dictated only the changes to his scribes, who recorded them on the manuscript.
Following the completion of the New Testament in February 1833, Joseph Smith returned to his work on the Old Testament.He soon shifted to the abbreviated notation system for that manuscript also. At first he marked the passages in the Bible that needed to be changed and dictated the entire revised verse to his scribe. Eventually he dictated only the replacement words, as he had done earlier with the New Testament. At the end of the Old Testament manuscript, after the book of Malachi, his scribe wrote the following words: “Finished on the 2d day of July 1833.” That same day the Prophet and his counselors—Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, both of whom had served as scribes for the new translation—wrote to Church members in Missouri and told them, “We this day finished the translating of the Scriptures, for which we returned gratitude to our Heavenly Father.” The Bible Joseph had used was the H. and E. Phinney Bible purchased at Grandin’s bookstore.
Joseph Smith’s Phinney Bible was perhaps not purchased with a new translation in mind and only later was employed in that work. In all likelihood, it was the Bible used from the beginning, but even that is not certain because the marks in it do not start until the translation reached John 6 in February 1832. And the spelling and word usage in the manuscript prior to that point do not always agree with the Phinney Bible. As far as we can tell, however, for all parts of the new translation, the text of the Phinney Bible was the starting point for the revelation. In the sections where the short notation system was used, the Prophet’s Bible plays an indispensable role. The manuscripts cannot be read independently of the Bible, because the location of the changes, the words to be deleted, and the points of insertion are all marked in the Bible itself and not on the manuscripts.
The hundreds of marks in Joseph Smith’s Bible were written sometimes in pencil and sometimes in ink. Often there is a check (√) or an X-like mark at the beginning and end of a verse in which a correction is to be made, to alert the typesetter to the change. Although no system was used consistently, frequently two dots, vertically aligned like an oversized colon, represented an insertion point. Two dots on either side of a word often signaled the replacement of that word with whatever was recorded on the manuscript. But very often a word was just circled or lined out, either for deletion or for replacement (fig. 6). The new readings were written on the manuscript pages and not in the Bible itself.
It is difficult to say whether the modernized spelling and usage of the Phinney Bible had an influence on the language of the Joseph Smith Translation. In sections of the new translation that have no counterpart in the Bible, both indefinite articles, a and an, are used before words that begin with a pronounced letter h. In passages on the manuscripts that are found in the King James translation, again both articles are found, despite the near-consistent use of a in the underlying Phinney Bible. The inconsistency in the manuscripts suggests that this particular modernization was not a high priority for Joseph Smith. But many other changes he made definitely had the effect of making the Bible more understandable for modern readers. The frequent changes in word order and modernizations in language, such as wot to know,saith to said, that and which to who, and ye and thee to you, show that the language of the Joseph Smith Translation was a more radical break with the tradition of the King James Version than were Phinney’s limited efforts to update the spelling. Even so, those changes were applied inconsistently in the manuscripts, and the best suggestion is that even though the modernization of spelling and word usage was part of the new translation, other objectives were even more important.
We know generally how the Phinney Bible was used in the production of the Joseph Smith Translation, and the marks in the Bible and the corresponding words on the manuscripts detail its contributions. But we do not know to what extent or how the Prophet used the Phinney Bible through the rest of his life. When he was killed in 1844, it remained in the possession of his family and was inherited by his son Alexander Smith, who gave it to his daughter Vida. She later presented it to her cousin Israel A. Smith, president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS).
Since then, Joseph Smith’s H. and E. Phinney Bible, published in Cooperstown in 1828, has been preserved carefully in the archives of the RLDS Church in Independence, Missouri, along with the accompanying manuscript pages of the Joseph Smith Translation.
Add-On Features in Joseph Smith’s 1828
H. and E. Phinney Quarto Bible
(Page numbers in the Phinney Bible in parentheses)
Chapter Summaries. The 1611 King James Version contained outline headings at the beginning of each chapter, providing summaries of key verses. These were perpetuated in later Bibles but often in abbreviated form. The summaries in Phinney Bibles are abbreviated, but they still retain much of the flavor of the originals.
“Canne’s Marginal Notes and References.” John Canne was a seventeenth-century English Independent living in Amsterdam. He published his cross-references in a Bible in 1662. They were used by many publishers thereafter, printed in the margins on either side of the Bible text, with a proposed date at the top of the column. They first appeared in an American Bible in 1807. Hills notes that over the course of repeated printings by various publishers, they acquired many typographical errors, and some publishers added to the references.
“The Names and Order of all the Books of the Old and New Testaments, with the Number of Their Chapters” (2). This is simply a list of Bible books in order with the number of chapters each book contains. It first appeared in America in Aitken’s Bible of 1782, but it was already in Geneva Bibles in the late sixteenth century and in King James Bibles by the 1620s.
“To the Reader” (3). This informative document, which fills a quarto page in 9-point type, was first written for Isaac Collins’s 1791 Bible to take the place of the dedicatory epistle to King James I.It was reused many times by later publishers. It is a brief history of the English Bible written by Dr. John Witherspoon (1723–94), president of New Jersey College. Witherspoon immigrated from Scotland in 1768 to take the position as college president, which he held until his death. He was a well-known intellectual and patriot and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. A prolific scholar, his list of publications fills thirty pages in a modern biography. In “To the Reader,” Witherspoon states that in an American Bible it is unnecessary or inappropriate to include the dedication to King James. At the end of Witherspoon’s article is a paragraph written by its original publisher, Isaac Collins, explaining where he obtained the text for his King James Bible. When later publishers reprinted “To the Reader” in their own editions, they included the publisher’s note as a part of Witherspoon’s document, even if their own Bible text came from a different source than Collins’s. Some later publishers acknowledged Collins’s Bible as the source of “To the Reader” and Witherspoon as its author. Phinney Bibles carried the byline “From Collins’ Bible” until the 1828 edition.
“Contents of the Books of the Old and New Testaments” (4–8). This table provides a one-line synopsis of each chapter in the Bible. Many of the summaries appear to have derived from those found at the beginning of the chapters in most King James Bibles. This section began appearing in American Bibles around 1820.
“A Table of the Several Passages in the Old Testament, Quoted by Christ and His Apostles in the New Testament” (575). This list is arranged in Old Testament order with the scripture reference, the quotation, and the New Testament passage in which it is found. Mathew Carey first added this list to his edition of 1802.
“A Chronological Index of the Years and Times from Adam unto Christ, Proved by the Scriptures, from the Collation of Divers Authors” (576). This small table gives lengths of time for various periods, such as “Israel was in Egypt 220 years,” and “Jerusalem was re-edified, and built again, after the captivity of Babylon, 70 years.” The list arrived in American Bibles at least by Mathew Carey’s 1802 edition, but it existed in English Bibles as early as the 1560 Geneva Bible.
“A Table of Time” (576). This small table gives the names of biblical months and their Gregorian-calendar equivalents and provides other modern equivalents of biblical timekeeping. This table first appeared in America in the 1791 Bibles of Isaac Collins and Isaiah Thomas, but it was already found in British Bibles early in the eighteenth century.
“A Table of Offices and Conditions of Men” (576). Providing brief definitions for technical vocabulary in the Bible, such as Judges, Presidents, Publicans, and Nazarites, this table also first appeared in America in the 1791 Collins and Thomas Bibles, but it was found earlier in English Bibles.
“Family Record” (following 576 but unpaginated). Phinney Bibles usually included two sheets, each with two columns for writing family names and dates. The first page was labeled for marriages, the second and third for births, and the fourth for deaths.
“Account of the Dates or Time of Writing the Books of the New Testament” (578). This table is on the reverse of the New Testament title page, opposite Matthew 1. It lists the books of the New Testament and the years of each from the death and birth of Jesus. Like “To the Reader,” it was written by John Witherspoon for Collins’s 1791 quarto and was first published there.
“An Index to the Holy Bible; or, an Account of the Most Remarkable Passages in the Books of the Old and New Testaments: Pointing to the Time Wherein They Happened, and to the Places of Scripture Wherein They Are Recorded” (755–62). This imposing eight-page table is printed in tiny six-point type. It is a chronological summary of the whole Bible in three columns, giving the date, the Bible reference, and the event. It was first used in American Bibles in 1791 by both Collins and Thomas, and Mathew Carey included it in his first King James Bible in 1801. But it had already been used as early as a 1755 Oxford edition.
“Tables of Scripture Measures, Weights, and Coins: With an Appendix, Containing the Method of Calculating Its Measures of Surface, Hitherto Wanting in Treatises on This Subject” (763–64). The author was “the Right Reverend Richard Lord Bishop of Peterborough.” The tables provide equivalents between biblical and modern weights and measures, with considerable commentary. This item first appeared in the United States in the 1791 Collins and Thomas Bibles. It also was used as early as a 1755 Oxford edition.
“Analysis of the Old and New Testaments” (764). This odd list of data provides such information as the number of letters in the Old Testament (2,728,100) and in the New Testament (838,380), and the middle verse in the Bible (2 Chron. 20:17). In the list, we are informed that “the 21st verse chapter vii. of Ezra has all the letters of the alphabet.” The list first appeared in America in Carey’s 1802 edition.
“A Table of Kindred and Affinity: Wherein Whosoever Are Related, Are Forbidden in Scripture, and Our Laws, to Marry Together” (764). This list of potential incestuous relationships first appeared in America in the 1791 Collins and Thomas Bibles, but it was already printed in an Oxford edition of 1755. As was the case with several of these tables, it was included in many Bibles published in the United States.
“Judea, Palestine, or the Holy Land” (764–65). This description of geography and topography was in Mathew Carey’s 1802 edition and was published in many other Bibles.
“An Alphabetical Table of the Proper Names in the Old and New Testaments; Together with the Meaning or Signification of the Words in Their Original Languages” (765–68). This is a list of presumably all the names of persons and places in the Bible. There are no references but only translations. This table was first published in the United States in Thomas’s 1791 quarto, then in Mathew Carey’s of 1801. But similar lists had been included in European Bibles for two centuries.