First Edition of "The Book of Mormon," Belonging to John Wesley Brackenbury, Son of the First Mormon "Martyr" and Stepson of Joseph Smith, with Seventeen Original Photographs of Members of the Brackenbury, Smith, and Curtis FamiliesJoseph Smith, Junior. The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, Upon Plates Taken From the Plates of Nephi. By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor. Palmyra, [New York]: Printed by E. B. Grandin, for the Author, 1830. First edition. John Wesley Brackenbury's copy, with his name on front pastedown: "J. W. Brackenbury / His Book / White Cloud / Kansas" written in pencil by the owner, John Wesley Brackenbury. "John W. Brackenbury / Independence / Mo." in pencil on rear pastedown. Brackenbury's seal reading "John W. Brackenbury / Notary Public / Jackson Co., MO" on Testimony leaf at rear. Octavo. iv, , 588  pages. With the two-page preface at the front and the testimonial leaf at the back, both of which appeared only in the first issue of this book. Also with the misprint "122" on page 212. Without the index, which was issued at a later date and was not included in the first edition. Lacking only the front free endpaper leaf and the final blank. Original full sheep binding. Smooth spine with black morocco label with gilt lettering and seven double gilt rules. Some rubbing to boards and along joints, with a few light scratches. Edges and extremities worn, with pasteboards exposed at corners and edges. Some loss at spine ends. Early repair to section of leather on front board and to section of leather on rear board. Mild puckering to both pastedowns. Dampstaining throughout, most apparent to first 100 pages and to last 100 pages. Toning, and foxing throughout. Large chip to fore-edge of title leaf, affecting text on recto and verso; two other leaves with minor chip to bottom edge, not affecting any text. Pencil notes throughout, in the hand of the owner, John W. Brackenbury, an "early Saint" of the Mormon Church. Despite some cosmetic imperfections, the binding is still square and quite sturdy. A very good copy.
This copy belonged to John Wesley Brackenbury (1829-1902), the son of Joseph Blanchett Brackenbury (1788-1832), a very early follower of Joseph Smith who was baptized as a Latter-Day Saint in 1831, only a year after the Mormon Church was founded. He was ordained an Elder the next day and became a High Priest six months later (ordained by Oliver Cowdery, one of the Three Witnesses of the golden plates). One of the first missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the elder Brackenbury was sent on a mission to New York State in January of 1832, where he was poisoned with arsenic by townsfolk fervently opposed to Mormonism. Brackenbury's murder, while serving a mission, resulted in his becoming what has been described as the faith's "first martyr."
Brackenbury's widow and young children struggled after his death. They were ultimately driven out of their home in Jackson County, Missouri by an anti-Mormon mob. After spending a night hiding in a cornfield, three-year-old John and his family returned to their home the next morning. John Wesley Brackenbury recalled later: "In the morning when we came back to the house, I remember that the house was torn down to the eaves, and the rafters were all off it, and I remember going into the house and there was a large table sitting in the middle of the room, and a big large pan of honey sitting on it. Then they took us away from there, off into the woods to a school house, and there were the women, children, and an old man there, but I do not remember the old man's name. We stood there all day, women, children, and this old man, there all day, crying, and in great distress."
After spending a somewhat nomadic few years travelling the Midwest and Far West, following the LDS Saints, the family ended up in Nauvoo, where, in the early 1840s, Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee, the widowed mother of John Wesley Brackenbury, married Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter-Day Saint movement and author of The Book of Mormon, becoming the twelfth of Smith's plural wives. Years after Smith's death, the Brackenburys eventually made their way back to Independence, Missouri, the place Joseph Smith had proclaimed "the New Jerusalem" or "the City of Zion."
As the son of very early Mormon followers, and as the stepson of the founder of the movement, it is no surprise that John Wesley Brackenbury kept and studied The Book of Mormon all of his life. As a child he was baptized to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and in 1866 he was baptized into the Reorganized Church of Latter-Day Saints, a splinter Mormon group led by Joseph Smith III who founded the group as Prophet-President after the death of his father, Joseph Smith, Jr. The RLDS was based in Independence, Missouri in Jackson County, John Brackenbury's family's home for most of his life. An ever-faithful follower until his death in 1902, he was serving as a member of the Quorum of Elders as late as 1900.
Along with The Book of Mormon, this lot also includes seventeen original photographs, mostly cabinet portraits (and one tintype), made circa 1900, of members of the Brackenbury, Smith, and Curtis families of Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa -- including four portraits of John Wesley Brackenbury. Many of the photographs bear the printed stamp of the Lamoni, Iowa studios run by Brackenbury's son Charles (Lawhorn & Brackenbury, Julian & Brackenbury, Brackenbury & Danielson, etc.). One large photograph (8.5 x 13.375 inches) is titled "First Quorum of Elders, April, 1900," with Brackenbury one of the twenty-five men pictured. This photo, with a notation on the back that the photographer was Charlie Brackenbury, has a few scratches to the image area but is in very good condition. The smaller photographs -- which include Brackenbury studio portraits of Joseph Smith III and his brother Alexander Hale Smith -- are in generally excellent condition.
Photographs in this collection include: John Wesley Brackenbury (two identical photographs, one in an oval mat, one in a square mat); "First Quorum of Elders - April 1900"; Joseph Smith III (eldest surviving son of LDS church founder Joseph Smith, Jr. and his first wife Emma Hale Smith; Joseph Smith III was anointed prophet-leader when his father died and was the head of the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints; A. H. (Alexander Hale) Smith (third surviving son of Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith; Woman seated next to a man propped up in bed (appears to be J. W. Brackenbury and, perhaps, his wife Nannie Curtis Brackenbury; Charles Brackenbury (son of JWB, the photographer who took most of these photographs); Alice and Charles Brackenbury (daughter-in-law and son of JWB); Vivian Brackenbury (granddaughter of JWB); Walice [sic] Brackenbury (grandson of JWB); Hazle [sic] Brackenbury; Luna Noble (daughter of JWB); Nell & Walter Pierson (JWB's daughter and son-in-law); Unidentified woman; "Tintype of Smith or Curtis"; Group of 10 women; and Group of 22 men and women. (Further information on photos available at HA.com.)
This copy of The Book of Mormon and these photographs have been kept together and passed down through generations of Brackenbury's family. These items, never before offered for sale, are consigned from a direct descendant of John Wesley Brackenbury.
The Book of Mormon has had a profound influence, not only on John Wesley Brackenbury and his immediate family, but also on nineteenth-century religious thought. Its impact on American history is notable, too, particularly for the pivotal role it played in this country's Western expansion. The Book of Mormon, rare in the first edition, is not only a highly-prized sacred text but is also one of the most collectible books on religion issued in the United States.
Church 1342. Crawley 1. Crawley & Flake, A Mormon Fifty, 1. Flake 595. Grolier, 100 American, 37. Howes S623. Sabin 83038. Streeter Sale 2262.
The photographs in this lot consist of portraits from three prominent Mormon families: the Smiths, the Brackenburys, and the Curtises. The Smith photographs in this lot show Joseph Smith III and his brother Alexander Hale Smith, both sons of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Mormon church, and his first wife, Emma Hale Smith. These photographs were taken by Charles Brackenbury, son of the owner of this Book of Mormon. The Brackenburys, headed by Josesph Blanchett Brackenbury, a very early follower of Smith and the first Mormon martyr who was murdered while serving a mission, left behind a widow and children. His widow, Elizabeth, became the twelfth wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. Their son John Wesley Brackenbury was the owner of this Book of Mormon and a life-long devout Mormon. Many of the photos in this collection are portraits of J. W. Brackenbury, his children, and grandchildren. Included are photos of his son Charles Brackenbury who took most of these photos, including those of Joseph Smith III and Alexander Hale Smith. The Curtis family also had early connections with the Mormon church. Thomas Curtis and his wife Percy were very early converts and followed Smith and other Saints from Chautauqua County in New York to Ohio and then to Missouri. Their son Josiah Curtis (born 1830) joined the Mormon Battalion at the age of sixteen and fought in the US-Mexican War. He settled in Missouri and joined the RLDS. His daughter Nancy Curtis (called "Nannie") (born 1863) married John W. Brackenbury who was considerably older, and both were baptized in the RLDS which was headed by Joseph Smith III (who was a close friend of John Wesley Brackenbury from their childhood spent together at Nauvoo). Three prominent Mormon families inter-connected with strong family ties.
Photos include: John Wesley Brackenbury: two identical photographs, one in an oval mat, the other in a square mat; 8 x 6 inches [and:] First Quorum of Elders, April 1900; JWB second row, far left; 8.5 x 13.375 inches (verso: "J. W. Brackenbury Independence Mo." and "Charlie Brackenbury Photographer Lamoni, Iowa") [and:] Joseph Smith III: (1832-1914), eldest surviving son of Joseph Smith, Jr., founder of the Latter-Day Saint movement, and his first wife Emma Hale Smith; Joseph Smith III was anointed prophet-leader when his father died, and was the head of the Reorganized Latter-Day Saints; 6.5 x 4.25 inches [and:] A. H. (Alexander Hale) Smith: (1838-1909), third surviving son of Joseph Smith Jr. and Emma Hale Smith; 6.5 x 4.5 inches [and:] Woman seated next to a man propped up in bed: appears to be J. W. Brackenbury and, perhaps, his wife Nannie Curtis Brackenbury - J. W. Brackenbury died in 1902; 5 x 5 inches [and:] Charles Brackenbury: son of JWB; one corner bent, 7 x 5 inches [and:] Alice and Charles Brackenbury: daughter-in-law and son of JWB; 4.625 x 6.125 inches [and:] Vivian Brackenbury: (1893-1981) JWB's granddaughter; 6.5 x 4.5 inches [and:] Walice [sic] Brackenbury: (born circa 1900), grandson of JWB; edges chipped, some scratching to image area; 6.5 x 4.25 inches [and:] Hazle [sic] Brackenbury: (1895-1981), 6.625 x 4.375 inches [and:] Luna Noble: (1865-1948), JWB's daughter; 6.5 x 4.125 inches [and:] Nell & Walter Pierson: JWB's daughter and son-in-law; 7 x 4.25 inches [and:] Unidentified woman: 6 x 4.25 inches [and:] "Tintype of Smith or Curtis": so identified on envelope; 3.5 x 2.25 inches [and:] Group of 10 women: 4.25 x 6.5 inches [and:] Group of 22 men and women: 5 x 6 inches.
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