Thursday, June 15, 2006

New Rare Bookstore To Open In Provo

Brent Ashworth, a rare documents and book collector is opening a new (actually probably old) rare bookstore in Provo. According to the Deseret News:
  • Image
  • Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News
  • Brent Ashworth stands inside his rare-book and collectibles store in Provo. The business will specialize in rare books and collectible documents.
Collecting rare books, manuscripts and other odd things has long been a passion of Brent Ashworth's. Now, after 45 years of dreaming and collecting, Ashworth has opened a collectibles shop, "B. Ashworth's," at 127 W. Center, Provo. "Most of those years I have wanted to share the things I have collected and the information I have gleaned," he said . . .

While most of the collectibles in the new B. Ashworth's are from Brent Ashworth's personal collection, he has a few consigned items. Among them are first and second editions of the Book of Mormon and the first hymn book of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, compiled by Eliza R. Snow. The book has no music; just words. A song by printer W.W. Phelps, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning" was added to the end.

Only nine copies of the hymn book are known to exist and are valued at about $500,000.
The first edition of the Book of Mormon has chapters inserted by a printer's assistant, but no verses. The second edition has the verses, and about 2,000 grammatical corrections made by Joseph Smith, Ashworth said. Smith is listed as the author. The books are valued at $75,000-$100,000.

In 1833, Church officials were printing the first Book of Commandments in Independence, Mo. A mob came in, destroyed the press and threw the pages into the street. Some children picked them up and placed them in the bushes to hide them. Later they took the pages to church authorities who were able to publish about 25 of the books. Ashworth has one of them on consignment with the words "fifth book" handwritten along the wide bottom margin, purportedly by Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Smith's scribe.

While collectible LDS items bring some of the western American history to the shop, other items are of national or international importance. For example, Ashworth has a framed document signed by Abraham Lincoln designating J. W. North of Minnesota as surveyor general for Nevada, a document worth as much as $9,000.

An 1813 framed letter from Napoleon Bonaparte to his son is another prize. Napoleon items were rare until the 1960s when 40,000 documents the French conqueror signed were found in an old barn outside Paris. The value of Napoleon items plummeted but have been coming up in recent years, Ashworth said.

He also has a page from the Gutenburg Bible. Only 48 known copies of the Bible are in existence, some not complete. One copy was so incomplete that in 1920 it was taken apart and sold page by page, starting at $200. Ashworth values his page at $65,000.

Other documents he has for sale were signed by Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Clara Barton and Winston Churchill. Ashworth's inventory includes a section of movie memorabilia, with a monogrammed pink dress worn by Marilyn Monroe and a brown leather jacket actor James Dean wore in "Rebel Without a Cause."
What makes Ashworth's bookstore venture more interesting is his involvement in Utah, and LDS history as part of the Mark Hoffman saga. Hoffman, of course, was the skilled document forger who forged not only many early LDS documents and sold them to the Church and others; but, he also forged some early American documents as well. When things went south in the forgery business, Hoffman began a string of murders to cover up his involvement in the forgeries.

Ashworth was an attorney and rare document collector who had done business with Hoffman in the early years. Police believe, as does Ashworth that he was Hoffman's third intended target.

For an interesting recap of the 20 year anniversary of the Hoffman murders, see here. If I were still stomping around Provo, Utah, B. Ashworth's bookstore would definitely be one of my stops.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great timing! I found a book called "The Mormon Murders" at my library yesterday (sadly in the non-fiction section sitting right next to a Book of Mormon) and wondered what its basis was. From the jacket, it looks pretty sad. They were going on about shaking the foundations of the LDS church and such. Thanks for helping me found out about the history behind the book. :)

Friday, June 16, 2006 8:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Half a million for a hymnal? wow.

Friday, June 16, 2006 9:59:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

PDOE: Glad you made the connection. The Mormon Murders is a good book. It's as good a murder mystery as you will read. I'm not sure about shaking the foundations of the Church . . .but it made for some interesting reading at the time. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!

J Stapley: Helps put in perspective when you sing every week at Church now eh?

Friday, June 16, 2006 6:44:00 PM  

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