March is heading out like a lion, let’s hope it is a gentle lion! Think back 182 years to a different time. The date was March 26, 1830 and the largest printing job in America, only surpassed by the Bible, was happening right here in Palmyra. This undertaking was amazing to our history and incredible in general. The Book of Mormon was printed right here, in Palmyra, at the E. B. Grandin Press on East Main Street. E. B. Grandin was a young man, about 25, when he took on this job from another young man, just three months difference in age, Joseph Smith, Jr. who was also 25. Both of these young men were wise beyond their years and were destined to make history.
This book was to be about 600 pages and the job was for 5,000 copies at a hefty $3,000. Surely, a job far too big for E. B. Grandin to print in his small publishing company using the existing printing press. E. B. was hesitant about doing this job, not just because it was so large, and because he didn’t have a proper press; but because of the type of book it was. There had been some controversy over the book and E. B. had felt his printing it might hurt his business. His business would have to commit totally to this enormous job and his other customers would just have to wait.
Two things had to happen to change E. B.’s mind about printing this book. One was the equipment and the second was the chance that this job could go to another printer in Rochester. E. B., being a smart business man, would not lose a job to another printer and a special newly Smith patented press was being delivered by way of the Erie Canal. These two hurdles were crossed and the book was going to press.
Was that the only glitch in printing this book? Absolutely not, a fellow named Abner Cole came along and secretly, probably on Sunday, when everyone else was in church, took pages of the book and published them in a newspaper called the “Reflector” under the name of Obadiah Dogberry, Esq. Both E. B. and Joseph Smith were searching for this copyright infringing criminal. Finally it came out that Abner Cole was the culprit. Schoolmates from years ago, Joseph Smith spoke frankly to Abner and in no uncertain terms ordered him to cease his thievery. Abner stopped and the printing continued non-stop. Ink was flying and people were stitching the binding.
Finally, it was done, and this book was distributed all over the new world. This was the pinnacle in E. B.’s career and he just couldn’t seem to top it. He left the printing business and attempted many other jobs. He died at the young age of 39 in 1844. Joseph Smith, Jr. went on to the west with his followers and was shot and martyred at the age of 38 also in 1844.
Page 2 of 2 - Since the original printing, there have been a number of reprintings and even today the book is being reprinted to look like the original 1830 edition using the same methods and materials. The Palmyra Inn and the Latter-day Harvest carry these books, and then there is the chocolate candy bar of the open pages of the Book of Mormon at Candy Corner Fudge Square from a specially made mold.
Come down to the Publication site on E. Main Street in Palmyra and the new Historic Palmyra Print Shop at 140-1/2 Market Street to see the history of printing in our area. The Publication site is specific to the history of the Book of Mormon and Historic Palmyra’s Print Shop depicts the history of printing presses made in Palmyra post 1856 up to 1923 as well as the old Courier Journal from 1838 to 2010.
Historic Palmyra features five amazing museums and is the center of general history from 1789 to today through these museums. Call 597-6981 for information and special events. Operating hours until June 1 are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday with tours beginning at the Historical Museum, 132 Market St., Palmyra.