The Cuala Press

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the work of one of the first female fine press printers, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940). Elizabeth was the sister of poet William Butler Yeats.

Elizabeth, known as “Lolly,” and her sister Susan, called “Lily,” were both involved in the Arts & Crafts movement in England and Ireland. Lily trained with May Morris at Morris & Co. and Lolly trained at the Women’s Printing Society in London. They were involved in a Dublin-area crafts guild, Dun Emer, Lolly overseeing a small press (Dun Emer Press) and Lily overseeing an embroidery workshop. In 1908 the Yeats sisters established their own enterprise, Cuala Industries, and Lolly changed her imprint to the Cuala Press. The press issued the work of many Irish Literary Revival authors, including William Butler Yeats.

Special Collections owns about two dozen examples of works from the Dun Emer and Cuala Presses as part of our Edwardian Literature Collection.


Minutes from excommunication of Orson Pratt, Jr.

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Minutes from excommunication of Orson Pratt, Jr. (MSS 6954). This document describe the court proceedings in the trial of Orson Pratt, Jr., son of LDS Apostle Orson Pratt. His trial, held on September 18, 1864 was a public meeting held to determine whether Pratt should retain his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result of the trial, Pratt was excommunicated. The single leaf of paper holds roughly ninety-nine lines of handwritten material from the trial. Dated 1864.

Orson Pratt, Sr. (1811-1881)

Orson Pratt (1837-1903) was a musician and music instructor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pratt was born in Kirtland, Ohio on July 11th to Orson and Sarah Pratt. Pratt was excommunicated from the Latter-day Saint Church in 1864 after refusing Brigham Young’s request to serve a mission and publicly denouncing Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter-day Saint movement. He died on December 6, 1903 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Women’s History Month: The Remarkable Alice Louise Reynolds

March is Women’s History Month, and Special Collections is celebrating with an exhibit celebrating the life and legacy of one of the most influential women in the history of Brigham Young University, Alice Louise Reynolds. Reynolds taught literature (first at Brigham Young Academy, then Brigham Young University) from 1894 to 1938. She was responsible for growing the university’s library in its early years. Reynolds also served on the General Board of the Relief Society, was an editor of the Relief Society Magazine, and was active in political and educational associations in Utah.

“The Remarkable Alice Louise Reynolds” exhibit is drawn from the collection of her personal papers held in Special Collections and will be on display through mid-April 2018.

New Exhibit: Early Mormon Currency and Financial Records

We are pleased to announce a new exhibit now on display in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. It is titled “Mixing Money and Religion: Early Mormon Currency and Financial Records.” This exhibit showcases various types of rare currency created and issued by the LDS Church in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Currency on display includes: Kirtland Safety Society banknotes, Nauvoo House stock certificates, and “White Notes,” which are early Utah currency from the late 1840s. The rest of the display includes records related to raising money to fund the construction of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples and other houses of worship,  and records related to co-operatives, including ZCMI, bishop’s storehouse, and the United Order.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of April 2018. Come see this new exhibit and learn more about early Mormon economic history!

Student Newspaper Update

Work to provide expanded access to student newspaper content continues, with ongoing scanning and indexing activity. During the past couple of months we have expanded the index to include content from between 1957 and 1972, bringing the index up through the presidency of Ernest L. Wilkinson. Further updates will be made available as the project continues.

To access the database, visit

Peter and Donna Thomas: a book arts exhibit

Special Collections’ holdings of works by California book artists Peter and Donna Thomas are featured in the latest Art in the Library exhibit. Since 1977 the Thomases have worked both collaboratively and individually—letterpress printing, hand-lettering and illustrating texts, making paper, and hand binding both fine press and artists’ books. The exhibit features examples of their work of the last 40 years. It is located in the Auditorium Gallery on level 1 of the HBLL and will be on display through April 27.

Peter Thomas will be visiting the library as a speaker and workshop instructor at the upcoming A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference, March 22-23. Registration is available now at !

Pioneer of Southern Utah and Las Vegas – John Steele papers

John Steele (1821-1903), pioneer of Southern Utah and Las Vegas, Nevada

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: John Steele papers (Vault MSS 528). This collection contains three boxes full of diaries, notes, correspondence, dictionaries, surveys, bonds, certificates, horoscopes, and military orders related to a prominent pioneer of southern Utah and Nevada. The correspondence was to and from John Steele, other family members, and acquaintances. The materials document the activities of the Steele family, John’s militia and Mormon Battalion activities, his missions to England and to the Indians, his migration to Utah, and his life in Utah and Nevada. Also included is a dictionary of the Southern Paiute language created by John Steele. Materials dated 1816-1989.

John Steele was born March 21, 1821 in Hollywood, Ireland, to John and Nancy Steele. At the age of fifteen years, John began to learn the trade of boot and shoemaking, and started a business in Belfast. At age nineteen he met Catherine Campbell, and they married on January 1, 1840. Their first daughter, Mary Campbell Steele, was born on December 23, 1840.

Because of poor economic conditions in Belfast, John moved his family to Glasgow, Scotland where he found work. John investigated the Mormon faith and was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April 1843, and about a month later he baptized his wife Catherine. Their family migrated to the United States in 1845 to join the rest of the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1846 John and his family left Nauvoo, and with other members of the church, headed for Council Bluffs, Iowa. There John enlisted in the Mormon Battalion, but did not make the journey to California. Instead, he and his family left Santa Fe to join the rest of the Saints journeying to Utah, and arrived in Salt Lake City on July 29, 1847.

In 1849, John was called by George A. Smith to go to Iron County, where he was to start an agricultural base for the iron works in Cedar City, and to defend the wagon train. They arrived in Iron County in 1851, where they founded the city of Parowan. That same year, John was elected marshal, where he served two years, heading several expeditions against Indians who were stealing and killing cattle.

After two terms as marshal, John was elected Mayor of Parowan in 1853. Shortly after this John was called as County Recorder, and also was asked to fill the vacant position of Judge of Iron County.

In 1855, John Steele was called to go to the Las Vegas Mission to investigate for Brigham Young the prospect of opening lead mines in the area. At Las Vegas, John set up a fort and started a garden. In 1856 he took over as Postmaster and also was asked to preside over the Las Vegas Mission. While there John and the other men did some investigating for Brigham Young into the prospect of opening lead mines in the area.

John Steele home, Toquerville, Utah, ca. 1900

In 1862 John moved his family to Toquerville, Utah. While there John was called on a Indian mission to the Moqui Nation [Hopi] in the company of Jacob Hamblin and others. He also served as a Major in the Battalion’s 10th Regiment under the command of Col. Daniel D. MacArthur of St. George. On April 15, 1868, John was commissioned as Justice of the Peace in Toquerville, and again in 1869. He was soon after elected to the office of County Surveyor for Kane County in 1873, and as County Assessor in March of 1874, and again for the year of 1875.

John and his son Mahonri Moriancummer were both called to serve missions to England in 1877. From his return in 1879 to his death on December 31, 1903, John Steele remained active in several Southern Utah civic and Church functions, acting as Bishop in Parowan and assisting with the construction of the Manti Temple.

Shipwreck accounts from Tokugawa Japan

One of the more recent additions to BYU’s Rare Japanese Collection is a manuscript which recounts the adventures of Japanese sailors shipwrecked in Vietnam in 1794. The 16-man crew of the fishing vessel Daijomaru spent a year in Vietnam before making their way to Nagasaki via Macao, Canton, and Saho. The manuscript describes the shipwreck and their observations of Vietnam’s people, flora and fauna, climate, and geography, as well as descriptions of the cities they visited on their return home. The manuscript has been cataloged under the title Annan wa 安南話 and is now available for research. It complements two other manuscript accounts of accidental visits to foreign shores by Japanese sailors in our collections: Kamoshitoka tsūshōuke zusho 加模西杜加通商請図書 and Roshiajin Nagasaki hyōraitsu kakinuki 魯西亞人長崎表来津書抜, which record the experience of two groups of sailors shipwrecked in Russia around 1793 and 1805, respectively.

Image from Kamoshitoka tsūshōuke zusho annotated by former owner Harry Bruning.

Image from Annan wa.


Mormon economic history exhibit – Church History Symposium, March 1, 2018

For those who are planning to attend the upcoming Church History Symposium at BYU on March 1, L. Tom Perry Special Collections will have on display a special exhibit of artifacts and documents from our collections related to the Symposium’s theme of Mormon economic and financial history.  On exhibit will be original Mormon currency from the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, Nauvoo House Association stock certificates, and early Utah paper currency. The exhibit will also show documents related to financing the construction of the Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples, including a Hyrum Smith diary, and the Provo Tabernacle. Also shown will be documents related to other Mormon financial or economic enterprises in 19th Century Utah, such as the Bishop’s General Store House, ZCMI, local co-operatives and the United Order.

This exhibit will be in the main lobby of Special Collections on Thursday, March 1, and thereafter in the Special Collections Reading Room, until the end of March. Please stop by to see these amazing documents!

For more information about the Church History Symposium, click here.

Black History Month Exhibit

Special Collections’ new exhibit for February celebrates Black History Month by featuring items by and related to figures who led and inspired the Civil Rights Movement, from Langston Hughes to Muhammad Ali. Fighting Back: Resistance in the American Civil Rights Movement is on display now in our reference area through February 28, 2018. The exhibit was curated by Special Collections’ Winter Semester undergraduate interns.


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