Book of Abraham - Loss and Rediscovery of The Papyrus

Loss and Rediscovery of The Papyrus

After Joseph Smith's death, the Egyptian artifacts were in the possession of his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, until her death on May 14, 1856. Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, her second husband Lewis C. Bidamon, and her son Joseph Smith III, sold "four Egyptian mummies with the records with them" to Mr. Abel Combs on May 26, 1856. Ten weeks later two of the mummies and some of the papyri were being displayed in St. Louis by a Mr. Edward Wyman. The St. Louis Museum was closed in July 1863 and its collection moved to the Chicago Museum, which was sold to Joseph H. Wood in 1864. The renamed Wood's Museum was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Combs kept at least some of the mounted papyri fragments, which passed into the possession of Combs' housekeeper, Charlotte Weaver Huntsman, and then to her daughter, Alice Combs Weaver Heusser. In 1918, Alice Heusser approached the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) with some papyri in her possession, which the museum declined. In 1947, Ludlow Bull, associate curator of Department of Egyptian Art at the MMA, acquired them from Edward Heusser, Alice's widower.

In May 1966, Aziz Suryal Atiya of the University of Utah discovered ten of the eleven known papyri fragments in the MMA archives when he recognized one as the vignette known as Facsmile No. 1 from the Pearl of Great Price. According to Henry G. Fischer, curator of the Egyptian Collection at the MMA, an anonymous donation to the MMA made it possible for the LDS church to acquire the papyri. These fragments, originally called the Sensen Papyrus, were designated Joseph Smith Papyrus I, X, and XI. Other fragments, designated JSP II, IV, V, VI, VII, and VIII, are thought by critics to be the Book of Joseph that Smith referred to. Egyptologist John A. Wilson stated that the recovered fragments indicate the existence of at least six to eight separate documents.

The eleventh fragment was discovered in the LDS Church Historian's office and was dubbed the "Church Historian's Fragment". Disclosed by the church in 1968, the fragment was designated JSP IX.

Some LDS scholars have argued that much of the original papyrus collection is missing, but others have challenged this notion, contending that the majority of the papyri have been recovered.

There is broad agreement that the recovered papyri are portions of the originals, partly based on the fact that they were pasted onto paper which had "drawings of a temple and maps of the Kirtland, Ohio area" on the back and an accompanying affidavit by Emma Smith, stating that they had been in the possession of Joseph Smith.

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