Two bibliographies on LDS history


PETER CRAWLEY. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church: Volume One, 1830–1847. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997. 477 pp. Illustrations, indexes. $55.00.

JAMES B. ALLEN, RONALD W. WALKER, and DAVID J. WHITTAKER. Studies in Mormon History, 1830–1997: An Indexed Bibliography, with a Topical Guide to Published Social Science Literature on the Mormons [by] Armand L. Mauss and Dynette Ivie Reynolds. Urbana: University of Illinois Press in cooperation with the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for LDS History, Brigham Young University, 2000. 1,152 pp. $100.00.

Two new works of Mormon bibliography have made the world of Mormon studies a friendlier place.1 Completed after decades of painstaking compilation and analysis, these volumes bring to the public the expertise of several senior LDS scholars. While both books contain the words bibliography and Mormon in their titles, they are nevertheless very different publications indeed. The Crawley volume, in addition to being a bibliography, might also be described as a narrative history of LDS printing during the Church’s formative years. In contrast, the tome by Allen, Walker, Whittaker, Mauss, and Reynolds is a reference tool that directs students of Mormonism to thousands of secondary sources, most of which were produced during the twentieth century.

A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church is, to put it simply, the best available source on early Mormon printing and publishing. After nearly thirty-five years of collecting, researching, analyzing, and writing, Crawley, a recently retired BYU Professor of Mathematics, has produced a volume (the first of a projected three-volume set) unmatched in its historical details of early Mormon printing. For Crawley, this is not unfamiliar territory. Over the years, he has produced several smaller, more selective Mormon bibliographies.2

Readers do not ordinarily peruse bibliographies from cover to cover, but this book is written well enough that I willingly did just that. This finely produced volume is a list of the “incunabula” of Mormonism, the defining publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Church’s inception through 1847. But this exceptional book is far more than a simple list of early Mormon books, pamphlets, and broadsides. While other sources available in the past twenty years3 have provided the same bibliographic information, Crawley’s volume is set apart by its extensive nonbibliographic details that add meat to the dry bones of typical bibliographies. The book includes biographical sketches of authors, editors, publishers, and printers as well as details on Mormon printing establishments, presses, typefaces, size of print runs, bindings, printing costs, wholesale and retail prices, and much more.

A Descriptive Bibliography begins with an insightful historical introduction to the first twenty-eight years4 of Mormonism with the Church’s seminal publications in mind. Next is the bibliography proper, which is comprised of 345 numbered entries arranged chronologically, with each entry including an often lengthy exposition of the historical context in which the book was printed. The end of each entry gives the appropriate Flake number,5 a Dennis number6 when applicable, and a census of the collecting repositories that hold an original of the item. The book concludes with endnotes, a list of library codes with their corresponding libraries, and three valuable indexes (author-title, biographical, and subject).

Occasional photographic reproductions of selected title pages (51 of the 345 entries) provide an important visual feel for these nineteenth-century publications. One minor irritation is the method used to acknowledge the sources of these illustrations. The citations do not appear on the page where the reproduction appears. Rather, they are found in a note buried at the end of the author-title index (456). The facsimiles are appropriately reproduced in actual size, yet nowhere is this stated to be the case.

Crawley is a tireless and meticulous student of the early Mormon book, and this bibliography reflects his tenacity. His book is a must for Mormon librarians, collectors, and serious students of early Mormon history. Unfortunately, this book may be difficult to acquire, as unusually rapid sales have made the work scarce.

The massive Studies in Mormon History (a huge volume printed in double column, 8½ by 11 inch format, with over 1,150 pages) is the compilation of two independent Mormon bibliographies that enumerate published sources primarily of the twentieth century. The larger bibliography, consisting of historical sources and comprising most of the book, was created by three Mormon historians: James B. Allen, professor emeritus of history at BYU; Ronald W. Walker, professor of history at BYU and director of research at the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for LDS Church History at BYU; and David J. Whittaker, curator of nineteenth-century Western and Mormon manuscripts in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library. The smaller bibliography, consisting of social science sources, was created by Armand L. Mauss, emeritus professor of sociology and religious studies from Washington State University, and his research assistant, Dynette Ivie Reynolds. This valuable reference book combines and indexes the vast historical and social science sources compiled from these two databases.

Studies in Mormon History begins with an introduction defining the authors’ scope and methodology. Next is the body of the bibliography, listing thousands of separate historical and social science sources dealing with Mormonism, including “more than 2,600 books, over 10,400 articles, more than 1,800 theses and dissertations and over 150 significant typescripts and task papers” (ix) arranged in bibliographic form alphabetically by author. This section, comprising 460 pages, contains both the historical entries from the Allen-Walker-Whittaker database plus the social science entries from the Mauss-Reynolds database to form a comprehensive bibliography of academic sources on Mormonism. Also included among the entries of books, articles, theses, and dissertations are entries for individual chapters taken from anthologies on Mormon subjects. Entries of this sort are particularly valuable because they are often missed by bibliographers and library catalogers as well.

The next section, 586 pages long, is a massive subject and name index of just the historical entries arranged into literally thousands of subject categories and formatted in abbreviated bibliographic form. The subject categories run the gamut from the obvious to the obscure, from “Abolitionism,” “Abortion,” and “Academic freedom” to “ZCMI,” “Zelph,” and “Zion’s Camp.”

The final section, a social science topical guide, is a subject index of just the social science entries arranged into twenty-one broad subject areas and further subdivided into a total of sixty-three social science subject categories. This is the smallest of the three sections (85 pages).

Because many scholarly works cover more than one topic or subtopic, the same abbreviated entry often appears in several subject categories. The resulting repetition of entries is of course what makes a subject index useful. Undoubtedly the index and topical guide will be the most utilized portions of Studies in Mormon History. Here one can begin a study of the secondary literature on nearly any imaginable subject or subtopic of Mormonism.

While all published bibliographies have their strengths and weaknesses, the strong point of this exhaustive compilation is its comprehensiveness. The compilers have attempted to be all inclusive of sources they classify as “‘serious scholarship’” (x). Additionally, they have included some sources deemed not as scholarly (such as biographical sketches) but nevertheless useful to Mormon studies. Also included are sources on Utah history that are not specifically Mormon but are not easily segregated from Mormon history. The compilers have excluded non-English publications, uncritically written family histories, the literature of Mormon schismatic groups, book reviews, and “‘faith-promoting literature’” (x). If anything, the compilers have consciously erred on the side of inclusiveness.

One flaw that cannot go unnoted is the way the compilers have sorted title entries (works without an explicitly noted author) in the bibliography portion of the book. These three hundred title entries are grouped together under the heading “Author unidentified.” The compilers acknowledge this unusual arrangement in a footnote on page three, explaining that the computer program used to produce the bibliography did not allow for the proper sorting routine (known as an author-title/title sort). A better solution, although admittedly more time consuming, would have been to insert these entries manually in their correct alphabetical order. After so many years of work on this bibliography, the additional time to manually enter the title entries properly would have been insignificant.

Yet, as with A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church, the value of Studies in Mormon History is unarguable. No research library with Mormon collections can afford to be without these two references on its shelf, and no student of Mormonism will fail to benefit from consulting their pages.

About the author(s)

Larry W. Draper is Curator of Americana and Mormonism in the Special Collections and Manuscripts Department of the Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.


1. The Crawley book may be considered new even though it has a publication date of 1997: the book did not actually appear until late 1998, due to delays at Wind River Press of Austin, Texas.

2. See Peter Crawley, “A Bibliography of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York, Ohio, and Missouri,” BYU Studies 12, no. 4 (summer 1972): 465–537; Peter Crawley and Chad J. Flake, A Mormon Fifty (Provo, Utah: Friends of the Brigham Young University Library, 1984); and Peter Crawley and David J. Whittaker, Mormon Imprints in Great Britain and the Empire, 1836–1857 (Provo, Utah: Friends of the Brigham Young University Library, 1987).

3. Most notably A Mormon Bibliography, 1830–1930: Books, Pamphlets, Periodicals, and Broadsides Relating to the First Century of Mormonism, ed. Chad J. Flake (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1978), and its sequel, Chad J. Flake and Larry W. Draper, comps., A Mormon Bibliography, 1830–1930: Ten Year Supplement (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1989).

4. This volume covers the first eighteen years of Church publishing; Crawley’s second volume will cover from 1848 to 1852; volume three will cover from 1853 to 1857.

5. The Flake number refers to the listings in the two Mormon Bibliography volumes listed in note 3.

6. The Dennis number refers to Mormon publications in the Welsh language listed in Ronald D. Dennis, Welsh Mormon Writings from 1844 to 1862: A Historical Bibliography (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988).

Share This Article With Someone