Mormon History

Fascination With Old Manuscripts - 1823

Ontario Repository May 20, 1823

Curious Manuscript. -- The public has been much amused of late, with an account of the discovery of a curious manuscript at Detroit, which not a little puzzled the learned. It was determined that it was not Chinese, Arabic, Syriac, French, Spanish, or English, &c., but what it was no one could tell. Four pages of the book being sent to major general Macomb, at Washington, he submitted it to the examination of the professors at Georgetown college, where it has been discovered to be Irish, and, with a few exceptions, "truly classical." Some "strange abbreviations" make it difficult to unravel it, but a part has been translated, and it is evidently a treatise on some of the doctrines of the Catholic church. -- Niles. 

Note: The above Ontario Repository article was reprinted from a late April 1823 issue of the Baltimore-based Niles National Register. The Niles report paraphrases an article published in the Detroit Gazette, on Mar. 14, 1823. The same Niles "Curious Manuscript" article was also reprinted by the Pittsburgh Mercury on May 20, 1823. This was during the period that Rev. Sidney Rigdon lived in that city and served in the office of Pastor for the First Baptist Church there. Oddly enough, the "strange abbreviations" and "characters" in the ancient text were sent to Dr. Samuel Mitchill of New York City for identification -- and this was five years before Joseph Smith, Jr. provided more characters, from his own ancient textual discovery, to be sent to the same Dr. Mitchill. Stephen Mack died in 1826 and was unable to advise his Smith nephew of his own knowledge of the futility of such a quest for interpretation by "the learned."

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