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The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text Hardcover – September 22, 2009
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About the Author
Royal Skousen is a professor of linguistics and English language at Brigham Young University and the leading expert on the textual history of the Book of Mormon. This is the tenth book in his ongoing Critical Text Project.
More About the Author
Skousen's work in linguistics has dealt chiefly with developing a theory of language called Analogical Modeling, a theory that predicts language behavior by means of examples rather than by rules. He has published three books on this subject: Analogical Modeling of Language (1989), Analogy and Structure (1992), and Analogical Modeling: An Exemplar-Based Approach to Language (2002). More recently, he has published on the quantum computation of Analogical Modeling, notably in his 2005 paper "Quantum Analogical Modeling" (available at www.arXiv.org).
Skousen began working on the critical text of the Book of Mormon in 1988. In 2001 he published the first two volumes of the Critical Text Project, namely, typographical facsimiles for the original and printer's manuscripts of the Book of Mormon. From 2004 through 2009 he published the six books that make up volume 4 of the critical text, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. This work represents the central task of the Critical Text Project, to restore by scholarly means the original text of the Book of Mormon, to the extent possible.
In 2009 Skousen published with Yale University Press the culmination of his critical work on the Book of Mormon text, namely, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text. The Yale edition presents the reconstructed original text in a clear-text format, without explanatory intervention. Unlike modern editions of the Book of Mormon that have added chapter summaries, scriptural cross-references, dates, and footnotes, this edition consists solely of the words dictated by Joseph Smith in 1828-29, as far as they can be established through standard methods of textual criticism. Later emendations by scribes, editors, and even Joseph Smith himself have been omitted, except for those that appear to restore original readings.
Anyone opening the Yale edition will immediately be struck by the sense-lines format of the Book of Mormon text -- that is, the way the lines of the text are broken up according to phrases and clauses. Joseph Smith dictated the book to scribes who wrote down his words. His dictation did not indicate punctuation, sentence structure, or paragraphing. These he left, ultimately, to the discretion of the printer. Consequently, the Yale edition constitutes a scholarly effort to present to the reader a dictated rather than a written text. To that end, Skousen decided to adopt the sense-line format. He makes no claim that the sense-lines adopted in The Earliest Text represent Joseph Smith's actual dictation breaks, but the first verbalization of the text would have sounded something like the result of reading the sense-lines out loud.
Top Customer Reviews
This book represents the bottom-line results of one of the greatest individual scholarly undertakings in the history of Mormonism. The multiple volumes already published by Professor Skousen with FARMS (aka the Maxwell Institute) are wonderful, and, for serious scholars of the Book of Mormon, indispensable. But they're also very large and . . . well, multiple. In other words, unwieldy for speedy reference, when one simply needs to see the text quickly in order to know the likely original reading. I have long wanted a single, convenient volume that would make the superior Skousen text readily accessible, and now it's here. Moreover, with its sense lines and superb physical characteristics (e.g., staying easily open on a table or a desk), this is a wonderful version for simply reading the book through. It's a great study edition.
I recommend this printing of the Book of Mormon enthusiastically and without reservation. It changes no doctrines, but it will change the way even experienced readers of the Book of Mormon perceive and understand its sense and style.Read more ›
Grant Hardy's introduction lays out the case for accepting the Book of Mormon as a serious work worthy of study in the context of world religions -- all the more so because we have so much definite historical and even forensic information regarding its creation and transmission (cf. Terryl Givens' By the Hand of Mormon).
Skousen's editorial preface in turn provides a brief overview of his methodology in producing the critical text, laying out his overall approach as well as some of his criteria in making critical text decisions. However, he rightly points readers to his multi-volume series on the Book of Mormon Critical Text project for detailed explanations as to item-by-item decisions regarding recovery or conjecture of the critical text.
Skousen also explains his presentation of the critical text: sense lines, (mostly) modern spelling, de novo punctuation, blank lines to indicate paragraph breaks, and a typographic insertion to mark Joseph Smith's original chapter indications. Modern (LDS 1981 edition) chapter and verse indications are given in the left margin.
Note that the punctuation, sense line breaks, and paragraph breaks are Skousen's; the original manuscript had none, and the printer's manuscript didn't have much more.Read more ›
The ink on these manuscripts was so faint that special ultra violet and infra red photography had to be used to bring out the text and the editing marks, yielding a few hundred very interesting changes stemming mostly from copy errors when a printer's manuscript was prepared for delivery to the printer of the original 1830 edition. By openly discussing all of the copy and editorial changes over the history of the book, Royal feels he has "freed the earliest text" for everyone to view and discuss for themselves. I have observed his rigid adherence to scholarship and his principled resistant to common textual readings that may be more comfortable to our ears, but which are unsupported by the original documents. By giving us the earliest possible text he lets the story speak for itself. Enjoy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Superb and meticulous work. Also love the reading style of the layout.Published 1 day ago by True North
Up front, I gave only three stars because I just barely took this book out of the box before writing this review and didn't want to be either too harsh or too effusive in my praise... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mark Tabla
The formatting makes it very easy to read and makes it feel more poetic. I can't wait to read it again. The hard copy and the kindle versions are both worth the price.Published 2 months ago by Carlos Bauer
This edition is the easiest to follow I have read thus far. It is easier to understand the BoM reading this edition. This is the edition I do all my serious study in.Published 4 months ago by Steven J Retz
I had an iPad and it worked fantastic using the Kindle App, but then I got a Kindle Voyage and it says it isn't compatible. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jaxon
Anyone wishing to understand the origins of the Book of Mormon needs this text. I've got both the Kindle edition (for easy digital searching) and the printed book, which is a... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jeff Lindsay