THE FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED IN BRIGHAM YOUNG’S “DESERET ALPHABET,” 1868 FIRST EDITION
(YOUNG, Brigham) DESERET UNIVERSITY. [The Deseret furst bok by the Regents of the Yionivursti]. [Salt Lake City: Deseret University], 1868. 12mo, original half brown cloth, printed paper boards; pp. 36. $1650.
Scarce first edition of the first book printed in Brigham Young’s experimental “Deseret Alphabet,” illustrated with wood-engraved title page and 23 in-text woodcuts.
In 1852, a committee called by Brigham Young, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, began preparing a new alphabet. “President Young hoped to simplify English spelling in order to speed literacy learning by immigrants and children. The committee consisted of Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, George D. Watt and others. (Watt had learned shorthand in England, which proved influential.) After two years, the group came up with a set of 38 characters. Every character had ‘a fixed and unalterable sound and every word is spelled with reference to given sounds.’ A type font was manufactured in St. Louis and used in Salt Lake to publish a few items during the 1850s and 1860s. Despite lack of enthusiastic response from the public, the project crept along, culminating in 1869 in the printing of the entire Book of Mormon” (Brigham Young University). Two school readers, of which the present volume is the first, preceded the Book of Mormon, each of which was published in an edition of 10,000 copies. “Although few of these books were sold, some Sunday schools as well as territorial schools used them. In 1873 Pratt estimated the cost of printing a meager library of 1000 titles at $5 million—prohibitively expensive for a sparse population in a subsistence economy. Those already literate had little incentive to learn the Deseret Alphabet, while illiterates would have had very little to read. The death of President Young in 1877 marked the end of efforts on its behalf” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism). With wood-engraved title page and 23 in-text woodcut vignettes, mostly depicting children at work, school and play. Flake & Draper 2817. Typed letter regarding bibliography affixed to front pastedown.
A very nearly fine copy.