Copyright Laws and the 1830 Book of Mormon

A newer edition of this article was published as a chapter in Sustaining the Law. Follow this link to view the chapter.

In the summer of 1829, Joseph Smith completed his translation of the Book of Mormon. One years removed from the harrowing loss of the initial 116 pages of the translation in the summer of 1828, he was determined to not lose this work again, in any sense. On June 11, 1829, Joseph deposited, with the clerk of the Northern District Court of New York, a single printed page that resembled what would become the title page of the 1830 Book of Mormon, in order to secure a copyright in the work. The court clerk, Richard Ray Lansing, generated the official executed copyright form, which he retained; Lansing’s record book was eventually deposited in the Library of Congress. In December 2004, this official form and the accompanying title page were photographed by the Library of Congress (see pages 97-99 in this issue), prompting a reevaluation of the law and the events surrounding the original copyright of the Book of Mormon.

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