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Poems of Phillis Wheatley

Today marks the 250th anniversary of the first publication of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, the first book published by an African-American writer.

Wheatley was born in West Africa around 1753 and was sold into slavery as a child. She was taken to Boston, where she was purchased by a wealthy merchant family, the Wheatleys, and given the name Phillis. The Wheatley family gave Phillis an education in English, Greek and Latin,  which was highly unusual for enslaved persons. They also and encouraged her to write, and arranged for her to travel to London in order to secure a publisher for her poetry when none could be arranged in Boston. Poems on Various Subjects was published in London on September 1, 1773, and gained notoriety in both England and the American colonies due to its author’s race. Wheatley was manumitted the following year, and while she continued to write and publish poems, she was unable to find a publisher for a second book before she died in 1784. Her work was revived by 19th century abolitionists and again in the 20th century by literary scholars, cementing her importance in the history of American literature.

The BYU library’s copy of Wheatley’s poems was acquired in 1976.



Experiential Learning and the Yellowstone National Park Collection

A primary focus at Brigham Young University is providing students with experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities enable students to take the skills that they are learning in the classroom and apply them in real world situations. This deepens learning in rich and meaningful ways. The Yellowstone National Park collection held in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University provides a wealth of resources that have the potential to enable rich experiential learning opportunities for students.

Dr. Jay Buckley of the BYU History Department has leveraged the resources in the Yellowstone National Park collection to provide experiential learning opportunities for students. His work with undergraduate student Nathan Benavidez highlights the ways in which the Yellowstone collection can be used. Together they conducted research on how mountain men in the 1820s and 1830s depicted the region that would become Yellowstone National Park. This research provided Nathan with a deeper understanding of historical research and the effort required to publish that research. His work with Dr. Buckley resulted in an article entitled “Mountain Men Reveal Yellowstone: Observations of Daniel Potts, Warren Ferris, and Osborne Russell in the 1820s and 1830s” that was published in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade Journal in 2022. It also resulted in two national presentations on the topic–one at the Conversations on Collecting Yellowstone Conference in Bozeman, Montana and another at the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale, Wyoming.

Dr. Buckley and Nathan Benavidez with a copy of their article.

Nathan Benavidez presenting at the Conversations on Collecting Yellowstone conference in Bozeman, MT.

Brigham Young University’s Yellowstone National Park collection is exceptionally strong and provides students and faculty with a variety of research opportunities. You can learn more about the Yellowstone National Park collection here and you can access digitized content from BYU’s holdings here.

Louisa May Alcott’s “Work” at 150

150 years ago this week, Louisa May Alcott’s novel Work: A Story of Experience first appeared in print. Work was revised from an earlier draft of a novel which Alcott began in 1861.

Work is Alcott’s most autobiographical novel. In it, heroine Christie Devon faces many trials as she tries to earn an independent living, finding positions (including seamstress, nurse, servant, and governess) in which Alcott and her sisters were themselves employed as young women. Christie’s work life mirrors the economic precariousness and despair which Alcott experienced while trying to support herself and her family before she found success as the author of Little Women.

When she returned to the manuscript a decade later, now in her 40s and a wealthy, successful writer, Alcott created a more rewarding and meaningful work life for Christie. In the latter half of the novel, Christie finds happiness with a loving husband, but he is killed in the Civil War. The novel ends with Christie and her young daughter enfolded in a sisterhood of single and widowed women whose work supports each other and improves the lives of the working classes in their community.

James Richard Bodily mission diaries

James Richard Bodily (1872-1967)

BYU Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a newly digitized collection: James Richard Bodily mission diaries (MSS 6120).  The collection includes two diaries from Bodily’s mission to the Southern States for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. One journal is a “synopsis of (his) missionary labors,” beginning from the time of his call to his journey to the Southern States from Utah. Elder Bodily makes reference to conditions and also many of the individuals and families he had the privilege to visit, teach, and baptize. The second journal continues to document his labors in the Southern States Mission. In the second journal Elder Bodily documents the weather as well as people he meets with and teaches. Dated 1897-1900.

James Richard Bodily was born on February 1, 1872 in Hyde Park, Utah, to William and Sarah Talbot Bodily. He married Margaret Charlotte Cole, the daughter of Joseph and Celia Cole, in the Logan Temple in Logan, Utah, June 2, 1897. Fifteen days after their marriage, James left home to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Southern States. He spent most of his mission in Kentucky; he returned home September 2, 1899. In 1902 James and Margaret bought a 160 acre farm in Cherryville for $3000.00. While in Cherryville, James taught school. He purchased additional farms and homesteaded 160 acres at Bancroft in 1912. They lived there fourteen months before selling it and purchasing additional acres. The couple had five children, all of whom were educated in the Whitney Grade School and Preston High School. James was clerk of the Whitney School Board and took an active part in the construction of the school in 1924. After spending the last 19 years of life in Mesa Arizona, he passed away April 12, 1967 at the age of 95 in the Preston Hospital and was laid to rest in the Whitney Cemetery beside his wife who had died three years before.

Latter-day Gamers exhibit

If you are coming to campus this week for graduation, stop by Special Collections and visit the Latter-day Gamers exhibit. On display are over 100 games themed on Latter-day Saint culture. As humankind gathered to form societies, games and play followed. Fundamentally, games have been used to teach culture, pass on heritage, and identify one another as part of a community. This impressive collection of games is about the realization of a community of Saints. They were created to teach the gospel and to build relationships by connecting us in faith, play, fun, and learning gospel principles.

While in the exhibit, you will have the chance to: Play a game of Book of Mormon chess from Latter-day Designs. Find the first Latter-day Saint board game created in 1947. Examine one of the most popular games, Settlers of Zarahemla, made in 2002. Watch Joel from The Last of Us video game survey the Salt Lake City landscape and Temple. And learn about the history of Pong while playing Pong, Pong Doubles, Quadrapong, or Pong Sports on the installed arcade cabinet.

New acquisitions in Spanish and Portuguese

In 2020, BYU Special Collections acquired a significant collection of early modern and Baroque books in Spanish and Portuguese from a private collector. These materials are now available for researchers. Highlights include literary, historical, and religious titles, and early dictionaries and works on composition. A few examples are shown below:

In her own words: 19th century women’s life writing exhibit

A new exhibit for Women’s History Month is now on display in the Special Collections lobby area. In Her Own Words features autobiographical writings by 19th century American women, including prominent and lesser-known writers. Their life experiences reflect many of the major themes and events of 19th century American history, such as the Great Awakening, the Civil War, and immigration and westward expansion, as well struggles for the rights of women and minorities.

FILM RESTORATION SHOWCASE — Winter 2023 — March 3, 7pm Library Auditorium


This Student-Produced film sought to capture the traditions both formal and informal of BYU student life in 1971.

In the spring of 1971 several students at Brigham Young University produced this film.

It is a playful campus romance that captures a slice-of-life of BYU campus culture at the
time and some of the cherished dating traditions of that era.

The 28-minute movie was premiered before 6,000 students in the Smith Field House
on campus on May 6, 1971, and it ran until the end of the term in the on-campus Varsity

Since that time it has been an underground cult classic at BYU.


At the BYU Motion Picture Archive we have a variety of historical materials.

Sometimes these are Hollywood film artifacts: film prints of Hollywood-produced films. Some of these are common (CASABLANCA) and some of these are rare (WINGED VICTORY).

A special group of materials are those absolutely unique camera original elements that we find in our collections. From these original elements we can now scan with cutting edge technology and see the films of yesteryear as they have never been seen before.

This is film restoration: to go back to a purer source of information so that what was there in the beginning can be brought back and enjoyed in its fulness.

The library has generously afforded me to offer internships in film restoration to students. Together, we work to restore titles for which we have the original film materials.

On March 3, we are holding our next RESTORATION SHOWCASE, where a student will present his project.



Historical. Fun. Interesting. Entertaining.

Join us, and some special guests, as we take a walk down memory lane with newly-restored media as it has never been seen before.

Samuel Bateman papers

Samuel Bateman, 1832-1911

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a newly digitized collection: Samuel Bateman papers (MSS 128). This collection contains materials documenting Samuel Bateman’s personal and family life. Included are some of Bateman’s handwritten diaries for the years 1886-1888, 1899-1901, and 1901-1909. Also included are typescripts, microfilm, and scanned copies of these diaries, and typescripts of some correspondence to and from Samuel Bateman, dated 1868-1886. His correspondence discusses guarding John Taylor and his friendship with Wilford Woodruff, who were both Presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other personal and family matters. A typescript of a biography of Samuel Bateman written by James A. Oliver is also included. Also includes edited and annotated versions of transcriptions of Samuel Bateman journal and letters, and James Oliver’s biography of Bateman, edited by Mark Burkinshaw, a great-great grandson of Samuel Bateman. Also includes “The Life and Times of Samuel Bateman” – a biography of Bateman by Burkinshaw using excerpts from Bateman’s journals that are annotated by Burkinshaw in 2016 (not available digitally).

John Taylor (1808-1887)

Samuel Bateman was born July 1, 1832, in Manchester, England to Thomas Bateman and Mary Street. His father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1838 and emigrated to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839. Bateman’s family arrived in Utah in 1850, and Samuel volunteered to go on a mission to Iron County that December. On November 27, 1854 he married Marinda Allen. Bateman was called to raise a platoon of soldiers in September 1857 to confront Johnston’s army, and the platoon joined others at Fort Bridger, Wyoming. Led by Lot Smith, these soldiers confronted the army wagon train, burned wagons, ran off livestock, and succeeded in stalling the army from entering the Salt Lake Valley. Later Bateman returned home, but was appointed to watch the army’s movements as the Saints prepared to move south. In the spring of 1861, he accompanied Brigham Young and others to visit the settlements of southern Utah. Bateman attended the “School of the Prophets” in 1868, and in 1870 he was asked to accompany Brigham Young on a trip to settlements in northern Utah. He married a second wife, Harriet Egbert, in 1871. Bateman later served as guard to John Taylor, third president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was with him during the anti-polygamy raids and his death in July 1887 in Kaysville, Utah. He also served as a guard and friend to Wilford Woodruff, who succeeded John Taylor as president of the Church. From 1888-1889, Bateman served a term in the Utah penitentiary for plural marriage. For work, he was a brick and adobe maker, mason, miller, farmer, and had many other trades. Bateman served as superintendent of the Sunday School in the West Jordan Ward and later as senior president of the 33rd quorum of the Seventy. He died on January 23, 1911, of Bright’s disease.

The Wealth of Nations: Earthly Things, Heavenly Things

A new small exhibit in Special Collections highlights first editions of major economic texts, including works by Adam Smith, David Hume, and David Ricardo. The Wealth of Nations: Earthly Things, Heavenly Things pairs these famous works with primary sources about the economic history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The exhibit is on display in the Special Collections Reading Room through January and February.

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