The Joseph Smith Papers will be Published by…The Church Historian’s Press

By February 25, 2008

After months years of anticipation, the Joseph Smith Papers Project has finally announced a publisher…The Church Historian’s Press. If you haven’t heard of this press before it’s because it hasn’t existed prior to now. There have been high hopes that a University press (other than BYU’s) would agree to be the publisher, but apparently those hopes have been in vain. Let’s just say that this is disappointing news.

The Project has also launched a project website, which looks to be a great site that will include transcriptions and images of Joseph Smith’s papers, as well as project updates.

Although the announcement of the press is disappointing, let’s remember that this is still a big step. With a press in place we may¬†actually get some volumes by the end of the year. And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few bets¬†settled when that happens. I know that a prominent member of the Signature Books staff will owe me lunch.

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. Biggest news of the year. Thanks for the update.

    I’ve won hundreds of dollars over the years from bets on the publication dates of this project.

    Comment by Justin — February 25, 2008 @ 11:59 am

  2. Hehe, I bet you have.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  3. Any idea regarding what university presses were approached?

    Comment by Justin — February 25, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

  4. Unfortunately, no. The Project members were sworn to secrecy on this latest stretch of press hunting.

    As you’re likely aware, the Project at one time had Yale set up as the press, but that fell through for various reasons. They also looked at the University of Virginia, but I don’t know if that ever was a realistic possibility.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  5. Definitely bittersweet…but I’m still thrilled. David, do you know what might have been the hangups involved with securing a university press?

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 25, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  6. I’m interested in what the hangups were, too. Could you elaborate a bit, David?

    Comment by NorthboundZax — February 25, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

  7. No, I hadn’t heard about Yale.

    Comment by Justin — February 25, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  8. I think a university press would have been great, but I’m hoping that quality work, like the JSP, from the newly-created Church Historian’s Press can help lessen the stigma associated with anything historical the Church publishes.

    Comment by Christopher — February 25, 2008 @ 12:56 pm

  9. My understanding is that presses were reluctant to take on another “papers” project because such projects are not financially successful. They drag on for years, only large research universities buy them and the presses are left holding the bag. Academic presses have been cutting back for years even on monographs (making it difficult to get a revised dissertation published, especially) let alone committing to a papers project.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — February 25, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  10. I take it that one of the problems with securing a university press was the extended nature of the commitment (likely decades).

    But why a new press rather than just using BYU’s?

    Comment by Randy B. — February 25, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  11. The main hangup, as Paul indicates, dealt with the sheer size of the project and the reluctance of many presses to commit to that many volumes. There were concerns about production schedules, ect. It was eventually decided that having their own press would be much more efficient.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

  12. I’m glad they’ve got the project going.

    If it is a financial success, perhaps a university press will take part two (the Brigham Young papers).

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — February 25, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  13. That’s definitely a good possibility, Ethesis. We can only hope.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  14. Great news. Thanks for this update and the links.

    Comment by Guy Murray — February 25, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  15. The Deseret News is reporting that the G.Q. Cannon journals are next. I take that to mean that volume two in the series will appear in 2023.

    Comment by Justin — February 25, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  16. That made me laugh out loud, Justin.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 25, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  17. LOL, Justin.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  18. From what I understand, the editors of the GQC journals have been tied up with Mountain Meadows and that after that is finally done and out, that they’ll return to the GQC project. So it’s not like we have to wait for all the JSP volumes to appear before attention is given to GQC again.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  19. So, any inside scoop on anticipated dates for publication?

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 25, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  20. Nope, sorry.

    Comment by David G. — February 25, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  21. The website mentions that published volumes will being appearing in 2008, with an anticipated two volumes being published each year. It looks like that’s about as close as we can get to a projected publication date at the moment. Since similar announcements for publishing schedules have previously been made and not met, take that for what it’s worth. See Justin’s helpful timeline for more on this.

    Comment by Christopher — February 25, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  22. Interesting stuff, aye. There was a “television prologue” on KJZZ channel 14 last November, promising a series of 50 or so broadcasts with interviews, etc. regarding the project. I haven’t heard any news on when the series will begin (if it ever does).

    Here is an article.

    Comment by BHodges — February 25, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  23. BHodges, see JI’s write-up of the television prologue (by Jared) here.

    It is my understanding that the series of shows is set to begin soon, with each episode focusing on a new document or set of documents.

    Comment by Christopher — February 25, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  24. I presume the only reason the project wasn’t able to get a university press was because the LDS church was unwilling to give up editorial control. I think there’s no doubt that the series has scholarly importance and that it’s being conducted with the best academic standards. I would understand if the church was unwilling to yield editorial control to an outside institution. But if they weren’t willing to, I can also understand why no university press would be willing to slap their logo on the books. That wouldn’t be appropriate from the university’s perspective.

    In any event, establishing a press for the Church Historian’s Department is a happy solution — probably a better idea than the original notion. I look forward to getting the first volume this year. I think I have some maps in that one.

    Comment by John Hamer — February 26, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  25. How does a university press view the church’s insistence on omitting content dealing with the temple, financial donations to the church, etc.?

    Comment by Justin — February 26, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  26. The proposed solution, John, for the problem of editorial control was the National Advisory Board, comprised of Harry Stout, Stephen Stein, Mary Jo Klein, and Terryl Givens. The idea was to have this board of prominent non-Mormon and (one) Mormon scholars assure university presses that the project was being conducted by the highest scholarly standards. From what I understand from friends inside the project, the question of editorial control, while it did come up on occasion in the negotiations, was not a deal-breaker. But the reasons laid out by Paul and myself above led to the ultimate decision to create the new press.

    Comment by David G. — February 26, 2008 @ 11:29 am

  27. Re #26 — David, sorry. That’s what I get for reading the original post and then skimming or skipping the comments. That’s interesting to hear and it’s surprising.

    I have a fair amount of experience in academic publishing. I’ve worked as a contractor for the University of Michigan Press, Columbia University Press, the Smithsonian and in Mormon Studies for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, Herald House (the Community of Christ’s version of Deseret Book), Greg Kofford Books and (of course) John Whitmer Books.

    The LDS church has already put up all the real cost of the JSPP, which I agree have been phenomenal. For a press to step in now and do the typesetting, some final editorial oversight, and then marketing and distribution should be a no-brainer from a financial standpoint. It may not make any money in the end, but it shouldn’t result in a financial loss for anyone other than the LDS church, which has already paid all the sunk costs.

    If money was the problem, I think it’s pretty short-sighted of the presses.

    Comment by John Hamer — February 26, 2008 @ 11:47 am


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