In Spalding Research Project "Working Paper No. 11" the following note occurs on
In a little known letter from Bay City, Michigan printer, Fred Van Campen, to James H. Fairchild, dated June 3, 1885,
Fairchild was informed of this alleged Spalding Manuscript; (see Letter in Fairchild Papers, Oberlin College Archives).
There is no record of Fairchild ever examining this work or even of his mentioning it in his various writings on
Spalding. The manuscript remained in the Spalding family until 1946 when it was donated to the Library of Congress.
Its full title reads: "The Romance of Celes, or The Florentine Heroes and The Three Female Knights of the Chasm." It
is a religious romance of 498+ pages, probably in the handwriting of Arvilla Ann Harris Spalding. The author indicated
on its title page was her husband, Dr. Solomon Spalding (1747-1862), a physician in Lorain Co., Ohio in the early 19th
century and a cousin (one generation removed) of Solomon Spalding (1761-1816). The Van Campen letter and the Library of
Congress both attribute the manuscript authorship to Solomon Spalding (1761-1816) and internal evidence seems to affirm
him as its originator of at least a certain part of the work. What additions and interpolations were added after 1816
is unknown. The work is best referred to as: "The Library of Congress Spalding Manuscript (alleged)."
Dr. Solomon Spalding was born in Plainfield, New Hampshire, in 1797 and moved with his father to Morristown, Vermont,
in 1815. About 1822 he evidently obtained certification to practice as a physician in Genesee Co., New York. It appears
that he resided in western New York during the 1820s and
was a member of the Batavia/Bethany/LeRoy "Olive Branch" Masonic Lodge. Solomon and Arvilla Ann eventually moved to
Amherst twp., Lorain County, Ohio -- probably in the late 1830s. They are listed in the 1840 census of that township as
having one son between the ages of 5 and 10 years, perhaps born in New York state. This was Lovel Spalding, who in 1860
was living at St. Illwater, Minnesota. For more on Dr. Solomon Spalding and Arvilla Ann Harris, see the notes appended
to the text of their marriage announcement, as published in the Rochester Daily Advertiser of
Apr. 7, 1832.
The June 3, 1885 Fred Van Campen letter, written to Oberlin College President James H. Fairchild, reads as follows:
Office of Fred Van Campen, Printer...
Watson Block, Bay City, Mich., June 3, 1885
President Fairchild, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio
In a recent book review in the Detroit Post, under the head of "New Light on Mormonism" by Mrs. Ellen E. Dickinson,
is mentioned your name as having published an account of [a] manuscript which you had examined, purporting to be the
origin of the Book of Mormon, of which manuscript Rev. Solomon Spalding was the author.
Mrs. L. F. Spalding of this city, has in her possession a manuscript by the above author entitled "A Romance of the Celes,
or the Florentine Heroes, and the three Female Knights of the Chasm" with this there is a little book of scriptural
quotations and comments.
Mrs. Spalding's husband was a son of Solomon Spalding. Solomon Spalding's widow was a resident of this city before her
death which occured in Rochester, N. Y. about eight years ago. The old lady was very fond of reading the manuscript to
her neighbors, and several times tried to have it published but could find no publisher who would take it on satisfactory
terms. She often told of the manuscript being in the hands of the printer Sidney Rigdon and that he copied portions of it.
Although I know nothing of the Book of Mormon I think this manuscript is as likely to be the "Manuscript Found" as that in
the possession of Mr. Rice. It covers about 350 pages of foolscap, closely written on both sides of the paper. Thinking
this might be of interest to you I have taken this opportunity of writing and trust that I am not trespassing.
Fred Van Campen
Whatever else might be said about the "Romance of Celes," it is certainly not the often mentioned lost historical
novel written by Solomon Spalding of Ashford (1761-1816), and reportedly called "The Manuscript Found." Either Mr. Van
Campen, or the daughter-in-law of Arvilla Ann Harris Spalding seems to have conflated the claims regarding the "Manuscript
Found" of Solomon Spalding of Ashford and the production of "Romance of Celes" by that man's younger cousin, Dr. Solomon
Spalding. Still, it is not surprising that Arvilla Ann Harris Spalding spoke of Sidney Rigdon and of the extended
Spalding family's belief that he purloined a certain historical novel, upon which he based the Book of Mormon's story.
The following "Prospectus" documents the claim, that "Romance of Celes" was offered "several times" for publication. The
prospectus was apparently printed in Lorain county, Ohio during the 1840s.