Notes From the 6th Annual A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference at BYU

By March 30, 2009

I was unable to attend this conference, but Trevor Holyoak did attend and has been kind enough to share some notes from the sessions he attended.  He notes at the end a website where past years booklets have been posted.  These booklets are well worth a look as they are loaded with great information and are very well designed.  Hopefully the program directors will publish this year’s booklet soon.  When it is, we’ll link to it on our sidebar.  Thanks Trevor!


I went to the book collecting conference at the BYU library last Friday. Pre-registration was required, and they were only able to accept a limited number of registrants in order to have small enough class sizes that we were able to sit around a table in most of the seminars, interact with the presenter, and actually handle items. Thanks to an endowment established by Jean M. Larsen in honor of her husband, A. Dean Larsen, the cost ($35) was a bargain for what was provided.

The first seminar I attended was about collecting postcards. The presenter was from Idaho, and his collection included examples from the Idaho and surrounding states, as well as Canada. Picture postcards became popular in the early 1900s but were not really considered collectible until 1950. The picture side is considered the front, and nothing but the address and postage were allowed on the back until 1907. Postcards from small towns are generally worth more than those from big cities, as there were usually fewer printed. Hints were given on identifying the subjects, such as magnifying to read signs and license plates. A postcard can go up in value tremendously once the subject pictured has been identified, depending on what it is.

My next seminar was about collecting ancillaries, which are the ephemera that go along with a particular book. The example used was Brodie’s “No Man Knows My History.” Since each printing had changes, the presenter showed examples of several of them. Other examples of related items were reviews, from the Nibley review up to the more recent ones (1996 and 2001) by Louis Midgely. There was also a copy of “Joseph Smith,” by John Henry Evans, which apparently was supposed to counter it in the marketplace. A biography of Brodie was also part of the collection, along with “Reconsidering No Man Knows My History,” by the same author as the biography.

At lunch there was a lecture on Victorian periodicals. It was actually more interesting than I had expected. The presenter showed a serialized version of one of Charles Dickens’ books that was several inches thick when all together on the shelf. Apparently it was easier to sell the book if people could buy one piece at a time. She also showed us a project her students have been working on, putting digital version of selected items on a class web site.

I then went to a lecture about Thomas Kane and toured the exhibit they currently have on display in Special Collections. A couple of interesting pieces on display were Brigham Young‘s recounting of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and a list of all of Brigham Young’s wives and children, the latter of which had been written by Brigham Young when Kane was assisting him with his first will and shows how much he trusted Kane.

For the last seminar of the day, I learned about Mormon books that the average collector can still hope to collect, since many items have gone out of reach in price. The categories chosen by the presenter included European non-English pamphlets, Mormon biographies and autobiographies, and publications of George Q. Cannon & Sons. I was particularly interested in the biographies and Cannon publications. It was very interesting to be able to look at and handle examples from each category as they were passed around. There has been an article published about this seminar at Mormon Times:

We were given a syllabus, which was a 93 page spiral bound book with notes for each seminar, including full-color photos and illustrations. They have the books from the last five years online, so I imagine they will also be doing the same with the one for this year (see ).

For anyone that is interested in collecting books and other items, I highly recommend this annual conference.

Trevor Holyoak

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. […] Better response for marketing campaigns! created an interesting post today on Notes From the 6th Annual A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference…Here’s a short outline…is considered the front, and nothing but the address and postage were allowed on the back until 1907. Postcards from small towns are generally… […]

    Pingback by Topics about Postcards » Archive » Notes From the 6th Annual A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference… — March 31, 2009 @ 2:54 am

  2. I realized this morning that I should have included more information about Thomas Kane. He was a friend to both government officials (including presidents Andrew Jackson and James Polk) and LDS leaders (such as Brigham Young and George Q. Cannon) and became sort of a liason between the church and the federal government, as well as to help try to present a more accurate view of the church in the media. Much of his published writing was anonymous, so there may still be some that hasn’t been identified. He never joined the church (apparently polygamy was a big stumbling block for him) but went through a baptism of health at Winter Quarters and was given a patriarchal blessing (which is on display in the exhibit). Both he and his wife made comments in his later life about how accurate the blessing turned out to be.

    Comment by Trevor — March 31, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  3. Mormon Times has also now published an article about one of the seminars I didn’t attend, which was called “Preserving the Past: Collecting Crawford Gates.”

    Comment by Trevor — March 31, 2009 @ 1:41 pm

  4. Thanks for this post! Such wonderful memories. As a young(er) grad student, I visited Dean in his office in early 1974 to learn how I might best orient my Master’s program in history so as to be marketable to a rare book firm after I graduated. Before I left, Dean had offered me a 1/4 time position helping them catalog seventeenth-century French political pamphlets. By the end of the year, he had offered me a full time position heading the “Pre-Cataloging Section” of the Acquisitions Department of the Library (later, the Bibliographic Department).

    I was with Dean & Jean for lunch the day the change in policy was announced regarding priesthood for all worth male members of the Church – well, and at lunch with Dean, Chad Flake and Peter Crawley constantly. Talk about being handed one’s future life on a silver platter. Unworthy! unworthy . . . but grateful to partake.

    Comment by Rick Grunder — April 1, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  5. I appreciate your report, Trevor. I wish I had known more about book collecting when I began researching family history. I let some valuable books slip from my grasp. Now that I know about this conference I will try to attend the next time one is held.

    Comment by Phoebe — April 1, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  6. I was just going through the stuff I brought home from the conference, and found a handout from Peter Crawley, about affordable books left to collect. It is a list of things that are known to be out there, but have not yet been found.

    Unsolved Problems

    European pamphlets
    1. Find a copy of Lorenzo Snow’s Only Way to be Saved in Italian, published in Malta in 1852.

    2. Find the different printings of Inbydelse til Guds Rige published by Hector C. Haight. There appear to be several, but only one is located.

    3. Find a 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, and 15th “oplag” of Erastus Snow’s En Sandheds-Rost. None of these are located.

    4. Find an 1857 German edition of Orson Pratt’s True Faith. The journal of John L. Smith, under the date August 7, 1857, records: “Receive a Copy of the New Pamphlet the ‘True Faith’ German but the post officials had badly mutilated it.” And five days later: “Received the pamphlet ‘[word illegible] Glaubn’ from Zurich 200–O pratts ‘True faith’ 16 pages in English 22 in German.” No such tract is located.


    1. Find a “superior” copy of Lucy Smith’s 1853 Biographical Sketches bearing a presentation from Lucy – there is at least one in private hands.

    2. Find a copy of Joseph F. Ray, James Wilford Ray & His Two Families (n.p., n.d.), and sell it to BYU.

    George Q. Cannon & Sons

    1. Find catalogues, advertisements, and prospectuses for the Juvenile Instructor Office or Cannon & Sons – other than the 1884 Books for Sale. At least seven others are known, and there are probably many more than that.

    Comment by Trevor — April 4, 2009 @ 1:54 pm


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