Question: What is the Anthon transcript?

Table of Contents

Question: What is the Anthon transcript?

Joseph Smith copied characters from the Book of Mormon plates and Martin Harris carried them back east

Joseph describes how between December 1827 and February 1828,

I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them, which I did between the time I arrived at the house of my wife's father, in the month of December, and the February following. (Joseph Smith History 1:62).

Joseph then described how Martin Harris carried the transcripts to experts in the east.

Where Martin Harris went, whom he saw, and what happened are clouded in contradictory reports. He stopped at Albany, probably to see Luther Brandish, a New York state assemblyman with a reputation for knowledge of the Middle East. Someone referred Harris to the illustrious philomath Samuel Latham Mitchill, then vice president of Rutgers Medical College in New York City and famed as a "living encyclopedia," a "chaos of knowledge." Accounts vary as to whether he saw Mitchill or Charles Anthon, another scholar, first, or if he saw Mitchill before and after Anthon, but the Mitchell episode was of slight importance. According to Harris, Mitchill encouraged him and referred him to Anthon, where a more important exchange took place.[1]

Mark Hofmann also forged a document based on the Anthon transcript, which he presented to the Church on 22 April 1980

Prior to the forgery being revealed, it was thought that this was the earliest extant Joseph Smith holograph.[2]

Characters in the authentic Anthon transcript(s) have been reported on two "Mexican seals made of baked clay" dating from no later than 400 B.C. Non-LDS archaeologists have remarked on this "hitherto unknown writing system" which "closely resemble various oriental scripts ranging from Burma and China to the rim of the Mediterranean," which if authentic "would almost surely be...an instance of transpacific contact during the Preclassic [pre-A.D. 400]." Other examples of the same script may also have been found between 1921 and 1932.[3] This is currently an area requiring more research.

Current status

A good summary of current scholarly opinion on the Anthon transcript can be found in:

  • John Gee, "Some Notes on the Anthon Transcript (Review of: Translating the Anthon Transcript)," FARMS Review of Books 12/1 (2000): 5–8. off-site

Notes

  1. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 65.
  2. Richard E. Turley, Jr. Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 24–39. ISBN 0252018850 Google books
  3. Anonymous, "New Light: "Anthon Transcript" Writing Found?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 68–69. wiki ; citing David H. Kelley, “Cylinder Seal from Tlatilco,” American Antiquity 31 (July 1966): 744–746 and John A. Graham’s comments on Hanns J. Premm, “Calendrics and Writing,” in Observations on the Emergence of Civilization in Mesoamerica, ed. Robert F. Heizer and John A. Graham (Berkeley: University of California Archaeological Research Facility, 1971), 133.