The List of the Most Expensive Manuscripts Had Recently Been Updated

Book of Mormon printer’s manuscript, shown with a 19th-century owner, George Schweich (grandson of early Latter Day Saint movement figure David Whitmer)

For almost 15 years the top place in the list of the most expensive books and manuscripts was held by the original copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook Codex Leicester (1500s), acquired by one of the Microsoft’s founders Bill Gates in 1994. With selling price of more than $30 million it was ahead by a third compared to the next book on the list – one of the original copies of Magna Carta (1297).

This September the first place on the list was taken by the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. According to sellers – the Community of Christ, in Independence, Missouri – handwritten document dictated by Joseph Smith was acquired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) for $35 million. However, in prices updated for the inflation, da Vinci’s notebook would still remain on the first place with its almost $50 million present day value.

A page from the original Book of Mormon manuscript, covering 1 Nephi 4:38-5:14

The Book of Mormon manuscript was owned by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (later – Community of Christ) since 1903, when it was acquired for $2,300 (almost $70,000 in adjusted prices).

Steven E. Snow, the LDS Church historian and recorder, said: “We hold the Book of Mormon to be a sacred text like the Bible. The printer’s manuscript is the earliest surviving copy of about 72 percent of the Book of Mormon text, as only about 28 percent of the earlier dictation copy survived decades of storage in a cornerstone in Nauvoo, Illinois.”

Printer’s manuscript was published before, in 2015, as a part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. According to the statement from the official web site of the LDS Church, acquired manuscript would be digitized and posted online at josephsmithpapers.org.

Mormons believe the Book of Mormon was translated by church founder Joseph Smith from gold plates engraved with Egyptian writings unearthed from a hill in upstate New York with the guidance of an angel. The LDS Church followers believe them to be the writings of prophets who lived in ancient America, as well as an account of a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ on the continent.

A rough replica of the golden plates on display in the Church History Museum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The original gold plates were reported by Joseph Smith, Jr. to be the source of the text found in the Book of Mormon. Image by Maithe38 CC BY https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:GOLDEN_PLATES.jpg

Historian John Hajicek, of mormonism.com told The Salt Lake Tribune that $35 million is a good price for the manuscript: “I thought the value of the manuscript exceeded $100 million.” There still are some other books and manuscripts that may have higher price estimates. However, they either never were on sale or were sold long time ago, making current evaluation problematic.