Hugh Nibley Observed

Book Notice

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley S. Ricks and Stephen T. Whitlock, editors.
Hugh Nibley Observed.
Orem, Utah: The Interpreter Foundation; Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2021.

As a tribute to Hugh Nibley the editors of this volume have collected forty essays written by Nibley’s family, peers, colleagues, students, and friends. The title of the book is a play on the title of Nibley’s autobiographical film, The Faith of an Observer: Conversations with Hugh Nibley. As described in the introduction, this volume contains “a kaleidoscope of portraits, perspectives, and memories from family, friends, and colleagues—observers, as it were, of a preeminent observer.”

This volume is a valuable and welcome addition to the two biographies that have already been written: Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, by Boyd Peterson, and Sergeant Nibley, PhD: Memories of an Unlikely Screaming Eagle, by Alex Nibley. A few of these pieces have been published elsewhere, but the great majority are new. There are over two hundred photos throughout the volume, many from the Nibley family, that help to illuminate the life and work of Hugh Nibley.

The collection is organized in four parts. “Part One: Portraits” presents a broad biographical overview of Nibley with an essay by John W. Welch, an essay by artist Rebecca Fechser Everett about her painted portrait of Nibley, and Nibley’s own intellectual autobiography, which was originally published in the volume of Nibley essays, Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless (1978). For the first time, this essay is accompanied with photos that illustrate aspects of Nibley’s life that are vividly described in the text.

“Part Two: Nibley the Scholar” provides revised and enlarged versions of thirteen presentations that were given as part of a Maxwell Institute lecture series organized for the centennial of Nibley’s birth. These previously unpublished essays give an assessment of Nibley’s scholarly work as they relate to various aspects of Latter-day Saint and secular scholarship. Eight additional essays highlight other aspects of his scholarship, including Shirley Ricks’s comprehensive assessment of Nibley’s publications; Ricks is an editor intimately familiar with his writing practices, including the reliability of his footnotes.

“Part Three: Nibley the Man” is a collection of pieces that provide personal insights into Hugh’s life and character, including tributes presented at his funeral by his children, as well as the significant funeral addresses of John W. Welch and President Dallin H. Oaks. Tributes and reminiscences round out this collection. Especially notable is Jane Brady’s rich selections from the vast folklore of Hugh Nibley assembled in the BYU Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections.

This is a delightful volume with many insights about Hugh Nibley the scholar and the man. It contains many valuable assessments of Nibley’s contributions, looking in retrospect at the value and lasting significance of his scholarship. Even for someone who closely followed Nibley’s life and scholarly writings, there are many precious observations, anecdotes, and evaluations that will give added insight into this remarkable person.


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Print ISSN: 2837-0031
Online ISSN: 2837-004X