Henry Caswall describes seeing the vignettes of the papyri before publication of BOA.

Henry Caswall

Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons; or, Three days at Nauvoo, in 1842 (London: J. G. F. & J. Rivington, 1842), 22–23, 26–28

J. G. F. & J. Rivington
Henry Caswall, Joseph Smith, Jr., Lucy Mack Smith
Reading Public

The storekeeper now proceeded to redeem his promise of obtaining for me access to the curiosities. He led me to a room behind his store, on the door of which was an inscription to the following effect: "Office of Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Latter Day Saints." Having introduced me, together with several Mormons, to this sanctum sanctorum, he locked the door behind him, and proceeded to what appeared to be a small chest of drawers. From this he drew forth a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics. These had been unrolled from four mummies, which the prophet had purchased at a cost of twenty-four hundred dollars. By some inexplicable mode, as the storekeeper informed me, Mr. Smith had discovered that these sheets contained the writings of Abraham, written with his own hand while in Egypt. Pointing to the figure of a man lying on a table, he said, "That is the picture of Abraham on the point of being sacrificed. That man standing by him with a drawn knife is an idolatrous priest of the Egyptians. Abraham prayed to God, who immediately unloosed his bands, and delivered him." Turning to another of the drawers, and pointing to a hieroglyphic representation, one of the Mormons said, "Mr. Smith informs us that this picture is an emblem of redemption. Do you see those four little figures? Well, those are the four quarters of the earth. And do you see that big dog looking at the four figures? That is the old Devil desiring to devour the four quarters of the earth. Look at this person keeping back the big dog. That is Jesus Christ keeping the devil from devouring the four quarters of the earth. Look down this way. This figure near the side is Jacob, and those are his two wives. Now do you see those steps?" "What," I replied, "do you mean those stripes across the dress of one of Jacob's wives?" "Yes," he said, "that is Jacob's ladder." "That is indeed curious," I remarked; "Jacob's ladder standing on the ground, and only reaching up to his wife's waist."

. . .

Having listened with due attention to the instructions of my host, I walked over to the store, where the storekeeper expressed his readiness to show me the mummies. Accordingly he led the way to a small house, the residence of the prophet's mother. On entering the dwelling, I was introduced to this eminent personage as a traveller from England, desirous of seeing the wonders of Nauvoo. She welcomed me to the holy city, and told me that here I might see what great things the Lord had done for his people. "I am old," she said, "and I shall soon stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; but what I say to you now, I would say on my death-bed. My son Joseph has had revelations from God since he was a boy, and he is indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. The angel of the Lord appeared to him fifteen years since, and shewed him the cave where the original golden plates of the book of Mormon were deposited. He shewed him also the Urim and Thummim, by which he might understand the meaning of the inscriptions on the plates, and he shewed him the golden breastplate of the high priesthood. My son received these precious gifts, he interpreted the holy record, and now the believers in that revelation are more than a hundred thousand in number. I have myself seen and handled the golden plates; they are about eight inches long, and six wide; some of them are sealed together and are not to be opened, and some of them are loose. They are all connected by a ring which passes through a hole at the end of each plate, and are covered with letters beautifully engraved. I have seen and felt also the Urim and Thummim. They resemble two large bright diamonds set in a bow like a pair of spectacles. My son puts these over his eyes when he reads unknown languages, and they enable him to interpret them in English. I have likewise carried in my hands the sacred breastplate. It is composed of pure gold, and is made to fit the breast very exactly."

While the old woman was thus delivering herself, I fixed my eyes steadily upon her. She faltered, and seemed unwilling to meet my glance; but gradually recovered her self-possession. The melancholy thought entered my mind, that this poor old creature was not simply a dupe of her son's knavery; but that she had taken an active part in the deception. Several English and American women were in the room, and seemed to treat her with profound veneration.

I produced my wonderful book. The old woman scrutinized its pages, and in an oracular manner assured me that the Lord was now bringing to light the hidden things of darkness according to his word; that my manuscript was doubtless a revelation which had long been hidden, and which was now to be made known to the world, by means of her son the prophet Joseph. She then directed me up a steep flight of stairs into a chamber, and slowly crept up after me. She showed me a wretched cabinet, in which were four naked mummies frightfully disfigured, and in fact, most disgusting relics of mortality. One she said was a king of Egypt whom she named, two were his wives, and the remaining one was the daughter of another king. I asked her by what means she became acquainted with the names and histories of these mummies. She replied, that her son had obtained this knowledge through the mighty power of God. She accounted for the disfigured condition of the mummies, by a circumstance rather illustrative of the back-woods. Some difficulty having been found in unrolling the papyrus which enveloped them, an axe was applied, by which the unfortunate mummies were literally chopped open. I requested her to furnish me with a "Book of Mormon." She accordingly permitted me to take one of the first edition belonging to her daughter Lavinia, for which I paid the young lady a dollar.

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