News: Doubleday publishes the Book of Mormon

UPDATE 7.12.04: The Christian Science Monitor also makes the Krakauer connection (thanks to LDS Today for the link).

UPDATE: Read Deseret Book’s account of the Doubleday deal. Here’s a quote from DB head Sheri Dew: “Sheri is quick to add her feelings, ‘The Lord does not need Doubleday, nor does the Church. But I believe there are people who will pick the Book of Mormon off the shelf because it says ‘Doubleday’ on the spine. There are some who will take it seriously because it is now appearing as serious religious literature, published by a national trade book company.'”

ALSO: Kim Siever likes the cover design as well. And so does Justin Butterfield over at Mormon Wasp (added 7.12.04).

I was pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one amused by Doubleday’s plans to publish a trade edition of the Book of Mormon. Doubleday also published Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Although the book focuses on the Lafferty brothers, excommunicated Mormon polygamists, some LDS readers felt that book attempted to cast a shadow over the institutional church as well, suggesting that Mormons as a whole might be more prone to violence than the average America. Doubleday is also the home of The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, whose next book will take on Masonry in the United States, including, most likely, references to Joseph Smith and Mormonism [sorry I can’t remember and find my source for this which I ran across pre-blog so didn’t think to document].

To be fair, Doubleday does have a religious books imprint so it seems like a natural fit. And now all those academics who are curious about the Book of Mormon or (gasp!) even want to use it in their scholarship or teaching now can buy a title unsullied by all those footnotes/references that signal its ties to and status as scripture. In fact, I predict that the Doubleday edition will even catch on with the Mormon intellectual crowd — what better way to display that you’ve broken away from the institutional church but still maintain your status as a cultural Mormon than to carry the Doubleday edition around? That said — I kind of dig the cover (click on the hi-res version).

The one thing unsaid in all of this is: who gets a cut of the sales? Not that I have any problem with the Church taking a percentage. Or even Deseret Book for that matter.

Sources: Dave at LDS Review and Julie in Austin at Times & Seasons. Note that the discussion at Times & Seasons on the Doubleday announcement is mixed in with a discussion about the Church’s recent statement on a constitutional amendment on marriage so if you want to avoid getting dragged into the SSM debate, do a “find on page” for “Doubleday” and just read those posts.

14 thoughts on “News: Doubleday publishes the Book of Mormon”

  1. I wrote this for AML with respect to cricisms of this edition. I too must admit that I have my questions about it. But I do think there is a lot of room for non-Church editions.

    The Doubleday edition will have different footnotes and formatting. Who knows, it may actually be better. I must admit that I don’t really care for the formatting of the current scriptures. I find that treating each verse as a numbered paragraph is distracting and breaks the flow of the narrative. If you’ve read many Bible translations that don’t break them up by verse and format the poetry as poetry, you’ll know how much better the church could do here.

    Likewise the footnotes in our edition are kind of embarrassing at the moment. Half of them are simply BD: word for the word with the footnote. They don’t distinguish between indicating a parallel, a related topic, or a quotation. I also find that the way they are put within the verses is a tad distracting as well.

    Heavens if there was a good altnerative to the triple-combination *I’d* buy it. I’ve come close a few times to purchasing the University of Illinois’ edition of the Book of Mormon which is formatted to be read. Unfortunately it is in hard cover with thick pages and costs nearly $40. If they had it in a thin leaf cheap paperback ala the standard church editions, I’d buy it in a second.

    So I think there is a market out there for the Book of Mormon.

    I’d also add that this *may* herald the church opening up the scriptures to more editions and perhaps getting mainstream publishers to publish them rather than themselves. I don’t know if that is the case. But I can see various economic reasons for doing so. (Not the least of which are all the questions regarding footnotes, introductions, and their “doctrinal authority” – especially in terms of recent DNA claims and the current introduction in the church version.

  2. I don’t see why not. I think there are lots of options for non-church editions. I’d love to see one more oriented towards “informed” Mormons. i.e. with a more FARMS orientation.

  3. This brings up another issue — one that I hint at in the original post. If more editions appear, how will that affect Church culture? After all, carrying scriptures (what you carry and how you carry them) are subtle signs of one’s “brand” of Mormonism.

    I’m not saying that more editions will excaberate differences among members — there are already “FARMS” members and “Doubleday” members (or perhaps “NY Times” Mormons would be a better term). But it could lead to some interesting, more varied status signaling.

    Which reminds me: someone should write up an analysis of the semiotics of scripture carrying.

  4. “the discussion at Times & Seasons on the Doubleday announcement is mixed in with a discussion about the Church’s recent statement on a constitutional amendment on marriage . . .”

    Alas, that pretty much describes the entire blog sometimes. T & S: A great place to talk about gay marriage, Sunday school, gay marriage, the scriptures, gay marriage, Mormon studies, gay marriage, and gay marriage.

  5. William Morris talked about the potential for division along Book of Mormon publisher lines. We had an interesting Elders Quorum lesson two weeks ago. The topic was the importance of the scriptures, and a significant portion of the lesson was spent discussing why there are so many versions and what value they might have. The discomfort that some quorum members had at the idea of reading from an ‘alternative’ version was . . . interesting.

    Pat Eyler

  6. I realize this thread is a few weeks old but I can’t help but point out the interesting choice of typefaces for this new edition. This new design uses Mantinia by renowned type designer Matthew Carter (designer of such well-known fonts as Verdana, Georgia, Bell Centennial, Helvetica, New Century Schoolbook, and many others.) Mantinia enjoyed a good run throughout Rolling Stone magazine in the 90s as a headline font, which is where I was first introduced to it. The 90s enjoyed a good share of revivals, though few as beautiful as this.

    A modern typeface inspired after the Italian Renaissance does not seem out of place here; its classic forms bring an elegance to the cover which I appreciate. However, I thought the second typeface to be quite a shift, with Miles Newlyn’s Democratica, a contemporary face from digital type foundry Emigre. Emigre has been one of the (if not _the_) forerunners in the digital type age; much of their type library celebrates the computer aesthetic. Democratica is quite a modern face, a font designed in 1991 to push against the grain of the cut-and-paste aesthetic that was so rampant in type design at the time. It too builds on a classic aesthetic, though presents unorthodox letterforms. I love Democratica, but it seems strangely out of place here. Was it included to make the book feel more “hip?” Is a statement being made here, straddling the classic with the contemporary?

    In general, I applaud the use of new typefaces; we’ve been in an Optima rut for much too long. Jonathan Hoefler’s Deseret (as seen in the new Church logo) is a welcome ambassador for the Church. But let’s not forget that the choice of typeface makes a statement all on its own, and serves to set a tone of whether this is a solid, established organization deeply rooted in gospel values, or a fly-by-night dot com.

    Typophiles will note: Miles Newlyn’s other typefaces are titled “Missionary” and “Sabbath Black” of all things. Democratica is also referred to as the “friendly cousin” to another Emigre typeface, Mason.

    Jared Benson

  7. Jared is everybody’s favorite Typographic Mormon. (Would that be TypeMo?).

    But seriously. Thanks, Jared. Now I know more exactly why I like the cover design.

  8. Oops. Forget to finish my thought — Now I know better why like the cover design so much — I’m all about mixing the hip and the classic. The Rennaisance juxtaposed with the computer aesthetic? That’s my kind of dissonance. 😉

  9. I’m not sure I like how the caps and lower case flow. Just trying out some sample text with it I’d think it’d be hard to read after a while if it were the body text.

  10. Yeah, I believe Jared is just referring to the typeface on the cover. A quick check of the Doubleday site doesn’t provide any info on the typeface used for the text.

    I think Jared is talking about the incongruity between the Mantiana typeface which is used for “The Book of Mormon” and the very modern looking Democractica for the subhed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

    Now that I’ve take a closer look at the hi-res version of the cover in full size (rather than the resize my browser did when I first looked at it), I think I see what he means. In order to look at the full-size version, you need to click on the hi-res link, let the image load and then save the image to your desktop and open in an image viewer/editor.

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