“Manuscript Found,” more commonly known as the “Spaulding manuscript,” is housed in the archives of Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. It consists of eighty-four almost equally sized sheets of paper, ca. 16.4 by 20.2 cm in dimension. Aside from the first sheets, which evidence some faded ink and deterioration of the paper (especially on the first page), the manuscript is in a good state of preservation. Today it is bound in a red leather cover, which was applied sometime in the twentieth century. The ink ranges from light brown to very dark brown or black.
The manuscript arrived at Oberlin College in 1885, when it was sent to James H. Fairchild, president of the college, by L. L. Rice, who had possessed it since 1839. Since it arrived in Oberlin, it has been housed under archival conditions and has been well preserved.
Given the widespread knowledge in the nineteenth century of Philastus Hurlbut’s contentions concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, it is not surprising that the Spaulding manuscript became a popular curiosity not long after it resurfaced in Rice’s possession in Honolulu. While the manuscript was still there, Rice provided a copy to President Joseph F. Smith, second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Smith had it published in Salt Lake City in 1886.  Shortly after the manuscript arrived in Oberlin, a transcription was made for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which published it in 1885.  Of those, Rice’s transcription was the more carefully done, but both publications corrected some of Spaulding’s spelling and punctuation and provided some editing to the text. Since the 1880s, no new editions of “Manuscript Found” have been published, aside from reprints of the 1885 and 1886 publications.
Because the Spaulding manuscript has been part of Latter-day Saint history since 1834—however undeserved its role in that history may be—the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University has thought it appropriate to bring it to life again so readers can be aware of its content. A few critics of LDS history and beliefs still hold to the claim that this was the source or the inspiration for the Book of Mormon, a notion that was invented by Philastus Hurlbut himself. This publication will hopefully put that idea to rest forever. A forbidden love, a stolen princess, gallant kings going to war over the love of a beautiful woman—this doesn’t sound like the Book of Mormon at all. In reality, “Manuscript Found” is a fictional historical romance that has nothing in common with the Book of Mormon, aside from the fact that its setting is among Native Americans of a past generation.
While “Manuscript Found” is not a literary classic, it is a charming story in its own right. Modern readers will enjoy the author’s mode of expression, his subtle humor, his early nineteenth-century rough-draft spelling and punctuation, and the fact that the book has two chapters numbered 8 and no chapter 13. The book gives the impression that the author did not know where he was going when he started and was unsure where he was when he stopped writing. But by the end of the manuscript, the hero had killed the villain and rescued the princess from her fate as the wife of an evil monarch. Still, readers will have the feeling that the novel is not yet finished and that there was more to come, even though it is clear that Spaulding wrote no more on the manuscript.
The present volume is an unedited facsimile transcription of “Manuscript Found.” Its production required many hours of work with the manuscript itself, supplemented by photographs, microfilm photographs, and photostatic images provided by the Oberlin College archives. The transcription was prepared according to the following guidelines:
We have, to the best of our ability, transcribed the text exactly as Spaulding wrote it, without editing or corrections in spelling.
We have added letters in square brackets ([ ]) only where part of the original page is missing (primarily at the edges of the paper), to suggest letters that Spaulding wrote but which are no longer extant.
We have preserved Spaulding’s punctuation as in the original. Spaulding’s dashes, which he used for a variety of purposes, vary significantly in length. We have represented them all with a dash that approximates the length of most dashes in the manuscript (—).
Spaulding usually indicated paragraph endings by returning to the left margin to begin a new paragraph on a new line without indentation. We have noted his paragraphs with conventional modern indentation.
Words or letters inserted by Spaulding above (or in a few cases below) the lines are indicated with angle brackets (< >). Spaulding’s strikeovers are indicated in the transcription with a line through the word (e.g.,
to Tolanga), including those large strikeover sections that were crossed out with large Xs in the manuscript.
A long dash in square brackets ([—]) indicates an indecipherable word.
All pages but the last two (170–71) were numbered by Spaulding at the top center of the page. Each sheet was also numbered secondarily near the top right in pencil, perhaps by an archivist after the manuscript arrived in Oberlin. The secondary sheet numbering includes only the extant sheets and thus does not account for the two sheets that were lost prior to 1885 (133–34 and 143–4). We have noted the beginning of each page in bold brackets (e.g., [p. 24]) and have used Spaulding’s original page numbering.
A few footnotes have been provided to explain or describe readings in the text.
Photographs of the first page of each chapter have been provided to give readers an image of the manuscript’s appearance. They are printed here at approximately 73 percent of the original size.
I would like to acknowledge the service of several persons who have contributed to bringing “Manuscript Found” to publication. Special thanks and acknowledgment is due to the staff at the Religious Studies Center Publication office: Heidi O. Gassman, Lisa Kurki, Charlotte Pollard, Jason O. Roberts, Anna N. Shaw, and LeGrande W. Smith. Melissa Duncan and Jessica Welch assisted with proof reading. Charles D. Tate Jr. had the inspiration for this volume and started the project, and Rex C. Reeve Jr.’s excellent introduction provides the context to understand it. I would also like to acknowledge the kind assistance of Roland M. Baumann, archivist at Oberlin College. The manuscript is the property of Oberlin College, and both the text and the photographs of it are published with the college’s permission.