Utah State University reconditions first-edition Book of Mormon

The 12-to-15-hour operation was described as delicate surgery, carefully performed with precision on the deteriorating, 180-year-old tattered patient.

Nearing two centuries after 5,000 copies of the first edition of the Book of Mormon were born at a New York printing office, Utah State University has partially restored one of them.

It's widely estimated that around 500 copies of that first edition exist today, said Larry Draper, BYU special collections Mormonism curator.

When USU first purchased the book 44 years ago, it was worth an estimated $5,000. Today, it's worth between $90,000 and $125,000, said Ann Buttars, curator of Western & Mormon Americana books in the university's Merrill-Cazier Library.

In 2007, another first-edition copy — signed by LDS apostle Orson Pratt — sold for $180,000.

"The conservation procedures are fully disclosed and the record will remain with the cataloging of the book," said Lou Lichfield, USU's book conservation consultant who performed the scripture operation.

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