1833 Book of Commandments
Photo by Stefan Hallberg
When the early Church was about to publish its first collection of printed revelations in a book titled Book of Commandments, the press on the upper floor of William W. Phelps’s home had thousands of pages waiting to be folded and cut. But on July 20, 1833, a mob broke in, chased Sister Phelps and her children out, and began to destroy the press. They dumped the printed pages into the street and planned to destroy them.
When no one was looking, 15-year-old Mary Elizabeth Rollins and her 13-year-old
sister Caroline grabbed up as many sheets as their little arms could hold and ran. They were seen and chased but never found.
The pages they saved that night were hand cut and bound. Homemade covers of leather, goat hair, and even wood were used to complete the books. The pages Mary and Caroline saved produced about 15 incomplete copies of the Book of Commandments.
When an extremely rare complete copy came up for auction at Christie’s in New York in 2001, it set a record for the most money paid for a nineteenth century American book: $391,000.