John P. Hatch, ed., Danish Apostle: The Diaries of Anthon H. Lund (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2005), 882 pages, clothbound.
Jedediah S. Rogers, ed., In the President’s Office: The Diaries of L. John Nuttall 1879-1892 (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 2007), 511 pages, clothbound.
For some time now, Signature Books has published important (to Mormon History) diaries. These transcripts are deftly annotated and hand bound in limited runs. The last two installments in their series were the diaries of Anthon Lund and John Nuttall.
Anthon Lund was a monogamist apostle and then member of the First Presidency from 1901 to 1921. He was born in Denmark, but journalized in English. He was the Manti and Salt Lake Temple Presidents and served as the Church Historian. He was involved in one of the most critical periods of Mormon development and as such his Diaries are a treasure for the researcher. These documents were donated to the Church by the Lund family with the express instruction that they be available to the public. Thomas Alexander was one of the chief historians who wielded his journal in the scholastics of history.
John Nuttall was involved in church governance in southern Utah but because of his bureaucratic skills was brought into be the secretary to the President of the Church (Young, Taylor and Woodruff). Nutall was involved with the Saint George Temple and was privy to a wonderful perspective within the presiding quorums. Nuttal struggled with his health, and being a polygamist, spent time hiding from the Feds. The source materials, as well as a complete typescript are available at the BYU Archives.
Both of these gentlemen left massive diaries. The editors consequently had to scour over the original documents and basically decide what of the text would be most important to include in a single volume edition. Such projects are inherently prone to criticism and I found in my research the need to consult the primary documents themselves, as entries that I knew to be extant and not included were impactful on my theses. This makes me nervous that there are other things that due to my proximity to the archives I am missing. This is without question frustrating, and made more so as the volumes do not indicate when they skip entries or paragraphs. However, outside of a complete work, a la the Woodruff Journals for which Signature will forever be acknowledged, such are the trappings of publication (my dream is that the nascent Church Historian’s Press will bury me with finely edited and complete works of primary sources).
The editors have both successfully produced exemplary volumes. The annotations are helpful and reference cogent accounts and details that enhance the readers experience. One cannot understate the value of these documents. Their expanded availability is without question a boon to Mormon History. Nuttall’s diaries are, however, short shrifted as the Signature volume only includes entries during his life in the President’s office. The remainder of his life was full and held wonderful insights into the nineteenth and early twentieth century church.
The books themselves are beautiful. The typesetting renders the text a joy to read, and when compared to recent offerings from Kofford are contrasted even more illustrious. I understand the market to which Signature renders these products; however, I do wonder if the high end market is truly the only fit for such products.