Rare First Edition of Book of Mormon Fetches $105,600 at Auction

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GENEVA, N.Y. (AP) -- A rare first edition of the Book of Mormon found in a home near Palmyra, the birthplace of the Mormon religion, fetched $105,600 at auction Wednesday.

The 177-year-old book was sold at an upstate New York estate auction to an undisclosed buyer who paid a 10 percent commission on top of a winning bid of $96,000, said Roberta Hessney of the Hessney Auction Co.

Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to be scripture on par with the Bible. Church founder Joseph Smith said he translated the book from gold plates delivered to him by an angel.

The first editions were printed and published by E. B. Grandin in Palmyra in 1830. While there were roughly 5,000 copies printed, only a few hundred still exist.

The copy discovered at the bottom of a box of books by workers cleaning out a house is in good, unrestored condition with its original binding. But the gold-leaf lettering has worn off and a blank page in the front is missing.

There are about 250 first editions held in private collections, perhaps an equal number yet undiscovered, and research libraries and museums hold about 50 copies, collectors say.

In March, Auction Galleries of New York City sold a first edition for $180,000 -- $150,000 bid plus a 20 percent buyer's premium. It was among the highest prices ever paid for documents associated with the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That first edition was signed by early apostle Orson Pratt. An inscription by the book's original owner, Denison Root, indicated the book was a gift from Joseph Smith's brother, Hyrum Smith.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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