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How could Joseph Smith know so much about ancient Arabia if there were no library books available to him on the subject?

The Book of Mormon is remarkably accurate in its description of ancient Arabia before Lehi and his family reach the New World. Where would Joseph Smith have found this information if there were no relevant books available to him?

S. Kent Brown notes:

A review of the holdings of John Pratt’s Manchester lending library and those of Dartmouth College has yielded no evidence that any of the aforementioned works dealing with Arabia—classical or contemporary—existed in these two collections in Joseph Smith’s day. They are simply absent from the accession lists of John Pratt’s library. In the case of Dartmouth College, the library did not acquire any of these works until after 1830, except volume 2 of Horsley’s English translation of d’Anville’s work, which came to the library in 1823. Apparently only one of d’Anville’s maps came with the translation, but which one is unknown; copies of forty maps came to the library in 1936. Dartmouth College acquired Edward Gibbon’s famous historical work only in 1944 and the English translation of Niebuhr’s volumes in 1937, much too late for Joseph Smith to have consulted them. Furthermore, the books in John Pratt’s library that claimed to treat the ancient world deal with Arabia only in a general way, focusing almost exclusively on the northern area near the Persian Gulf. In this light it is safe to conclude that Joseph Smith did not enjoy access to works on Arabia in either of the libraries that lay near his home at one point or another in his youth. In a similar vein, any hypothesis that Joseph Smith had access to a private library that contained works on ancient Arabia is impossible to sustain

– S. Kent Brown, “New Light from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 5

Where would Joseph Smith have gotten all his knowledge about Arabia?


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