Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass and A Window to the Past

NELSON B. WADSWORTH. Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass: The Great Mormon Temple and Its Photographers. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992.

RICHARD NEITZEL HOLZAPFEL and T. JEFFERY COTTLE. A Window to the Past: A Photographic Panorama of Early Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1993.

Each of these pictorial books was apparently published to books take advantage of a ready-made 1993 Mormon audience. The publication of A Window to the Past coincided with the Church curriculum emphasis on Church history and the Doctrine and Covenants. Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass capitalized on the interest and market created by the centennial anniversary of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. Both books reflect ambitious research, the culling of many and diverse collections, and the bringing together of photos, objects, and informative items, many of which have never before been readily accessible to the average reader. However, these books do not work equally well.

It is generally unfair for a reviewer to review the book she or he wanted written, rather than the book which exists. However, when the author and the publisher themselves lead prospective readers to believe a book is other than it turns out to be, comparing the appearance with the reality may be a service to an unsuspecting public. Such is the case with Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass: The Great Mormon Temple and Its Photographers.The title, cover photograph, design, and author’s introduction all set expectations, summarized in the first paragraph of the inside cover flap: “To celebrate the centennial of the [Salt Lake Temple] dedication, Nelson Wadsworth has assembled nearly 400 rare turn-of-the-century glass, copper, and dry-plate exposures which place the temple in historical and aesthetic perspective.”

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