Printing in Deseret: Mormons, Economy, Politics, and Utah’s Incunabula, 1849-1851

The field of “book history” has been described as “the social and cultural history of communication by print” whose purpose “is to understand how ideas were transmitted through print and how exposure to the printed word affected the thought and behavior of mankind.” Richard L. Saunders, curator of Special Collections and Archives at the Paul Meek Library, University of Tennessee at Martin, has crafted a well-written study of the history of printing in early Deseret. In the process, Saunders, much like other historians of the printed word, has studied the social and political influences on Utah’s printing efforts.

In the introduction, Saunders announces three themes that “shaped the conduct of printing in Deseret and Utah’s first years.” These themes are “Mormon social maintenance and reconstruction, the economics of the saints’ isolated refuge and the California gold rush, and the quest for national political recognition.” In the first part of the book, he describes of the Saints’ efforts to establish a press in Utah as well as create a political state in their new Great Basin kingdom.

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