A volume of early issues of The Latter-day Saints' Messenger and Advocate, one of the earliest publications in LDS Church history, was up for bid at the semiannual Printed and Manuscript Americana auction at the Swann Auction Galleries, but did not sell.
Based in Manhattan, the auction took place April 16.
The volume was estimated to sell between $100,000 and $150,000, according to the auction house.
While the lot did not sell, the auction house is exploring the idea of selling it post-auction.
The Printed and Manuscript Americana auction primarily sells important historical documents in American history, and the auction house usually obtains a substantial amount of Mormon history.
The first issue of the Messenger and Advocate newspaper was published in the fall of 1834, with Oliver Cowdery as the editor-in-chief. It was around for approximately three years before it went out of print.
Included in the early issues are original letters written by the Prophet Joseph Smith and a series of eight letters by Cowdery.
"Nineteenth century newspapers were really the technology and Internet of their day so it was really quite vital that we had presses," said Brad Westwood, the manager of acquisitions for the Church History Department.
Each time the Saints settled in a new town such as Kirtland, Ohio, or Independence, Mo., they'd set up a newspaper to record the events happening at the time.
Most publications during that time would print a weekly or monthly edition, and they would occasionally put out a special edition.
Local libraries typically keep records of the regular newspaper editions, but it is rare to find an archived special edition, according to Westwood.
Much of the volume's value is found in the rich history of early revelations for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“This is the first time a copy this nice has shown up in this auction, so it’s very hard to predict what will happen,” Americana specialist Rick Stattler said prior to the auction.
The Americana is a live auction. While it accepts bids over the phone, there are people from all over the country and the world who travel to attend the auction.
“No two days are alike here. It’s an exciting place,” Stattler said. “Documents come in at a steady pace and it’s exciting to figure out how much something might be worth and also where the best home for it might be.”
Many Latter-day Saints are interested in obtaining historical documents because they are passionate about religious history.
“We all understand and feel a great deal of angst about how we were treated as a group in the 19th century,” Westwood said. “A lot of people who are faithful like to have something that expresses their faith.”
Megan Marsden is an intern with the Deseret News writing for the Faith & Family section. She is currently a junior at BYU-Idaho studying communication.
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