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Intellect

Deseret Alphabet focus of new Lee Library exhibit through Oct. 31

Patrons of Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library can learn the ABCs of the Deseret Alphabet in a L. Tom Perry Special Collection exhibit available through the end of October.

Brigham Young facilitated the creation of the Deseret Alphabet in the 1850s to replace the traditional alphabet with a more phonetically based version, according to Special Collections reference specialist Irene Adams.

“This was an effort to aid immigrants, specifically those headed west to Utah, in their desire to learn the English language,” she said.

The exhibit, located in the reference area of Special Collections on the Harold B. Lee Library’s first level, shows a variety of pieces that illustrate the evolution and demise of the Deseret Alphabet. It includes articles that call for the reform of English language spelling, the announcement of the new alphabet developed by the committee when they found spelling reform unworkable and the announcement of the alphabet itself, this time with printed samples.

The exhibit also displays examples of the alphabet being used in daily activities, from a journal to a gravestone to a coin.

Students will likely cease complaining about the complex language in their Chemistry 105 books after seeing a school child’s primer written in Deseret Alphabet, said Adams.

“My favorite is the diary written in Deseret Alphabet,” said Adams. “Thales Haskell faithfully wrote his journal in the new alphabet for 15 pages — but then he gave up, went back and transliterated all of it back into standard English.”

The exhibit also gives viewers the chance to try decoding the Deseret Alphabet on their own.

The exhibit will be open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For additional information, contact Irene Adams, irene_adams@byu.edu or call the reference desk at 801-422-3175.

Deseret_Alpha_Title_Page.jpg
Photo by Mark A. Philbrick/BYU Photo

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