The following is my first contribution to FAIR’s Translation Witness Accounts (TWA) Project spearheaded by Blair Hodges. Blair has the initial installment at his blog by listing all known firsthand accounts from Joseph Smith. Here I compiled as many accounts as I could find, but I seem to recall running across another one I can’t currently locate in my notes. Readers are welcome to point out other accounts that explicitly affirm or deny the use of curtain separating Joseph Smith from his scribes. I also want to hear about you make of these accounts.
My excerpts are mostly from Opening the Heavens which contains a compilation of 203 translation accounts done by Jack Welch. My footnotes are keyed to the number that Welch assigned. I have supplemented Welch’s accounts with several found in the 4th volume of Dan Vogel’s Early Mormon Documents series, in which case I use the page number the excerpt is found on.
The way that Smith made his transcripts and transcriptions for Harris was the following. Although in the same room, a thick curtain or blanket was suspended between them, and Smith concealed behind the blanket, pretended to look through his spectacles, or transparent stones, and would then write down or repeat what he saw, which, when repeated aloud, was written down by Harris, who sat on the other side of the suspended blanket. Harris was told that it would arouse the most terrible divine displeasure, if he should attempt to draw near the sacred chest, or look at Smith while engaged in the work of decyphering the mysterious characters. This was Harris’s own account of the matter to me. 
He [David Whitmer] said that Joseph was separated from the scribe by a blanket, as I remember; that he had the Urim and Thummim, and a chocolate colored stone, which he used alternately, as suited his convenience,and he said he believed Joseph could as well accomplish the translation by looking into a hat, or any other stone, as by the use of the Urim and Thummim or the chocolate colored stone. David expressed absolute faith in the Prophet’s power to get any information he desired, and by any means he should adopt for the purpose. I mean he appeared to have absolute faith in the Prophet’s power with God, to get any information he wished for. And he did not think that either the Urim and Thummim or the stone he had were essential, or absolutely essential, to the obtaining of the information. He said that Joseph would–as I remember–place the manuscript beneath the stone or Urim and Thummim, and the characters would appear in English, which he would spell out, and they would remain there until the word was fully written and corrected, when it would disappear and another word appear, etc. 
Harris declares, that when he acted as amanuenses, and wrote the translation, as Smith dictated, such was his fear of the Divine displeasure, that a screen (sheet) was suspended between the prophet and himself…. 
[Martin Harris] says he wrote a considerable part of the book, as Smith dictated, and at one time the presence of the Lord was so great, that a screen was hung up between him and the Prophet; at other times the Prophet would sit in a different room, or up stairs, while the Lord was communicating to him the contents of the plates. He does not pretend that he ever saw the wonderful plates but once, although he and Smith were engaged for months in deciphering their contents. 
This young man was placed behind a curtain, in the garret of a farm house, and, being thus concealed from view, put on the spectacles occasionally, or rather, looked through one of the glasses, decyphered the characters in the book, and, having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain, to those who stood on the outside. Not a word, however, was said about the plates having been decyphered “by the gift of God:’ Every thing, in this way, was effected by the large pair of spectacles. 
A young man, it seems, had been placed in the garret of a farm-house, with a curtain before him, and, having fastened the spectacles to his head, had read several pages in the golden book, and communicated their contents in writing to certain persons stationed on the outside of the curtain. He had also copied off one page of the book in the original character, which he had in like manner handed over to those who were separated from him by the curtain, and this copy was the paper which the countryman had brought with him. 
Translations and interpretations were now entered upon by the prophet, and manuscript specimens of these, with some of the literally transcribed characters, were shown to people, including ministers and other gentlemen of learning and influence…. The manuscripts were in the handwriting of one Oliver Cowdery, which had been written down by him, as he and Smith declared, from the translations, word for word, as made by the latter with the aid of the mammoth spectacles or Urim and Thummim, and verbally announced by him from behind a blanket-screen drawn across a dark corner of a room at his residence-for at this time the original revelation, limiting to the prophet the right of seeing the sacred plates, had not yet been changed, and the view with the instrument used was even too brilliant for his own spiritualized eyes in the light! This was the story of the first series of translations, which was always persisted in by the few persons connected with the business at this early period of its progress. The single significance of this theory will doubtless be manifest, when the facts are stated in explanation, that Smith could not write in a legible hand, and hence an amanuensis or scribe was necessary. Cowdery had been a schoolmaster, and was the only man in the band who could make a copy for the printer. …. The work of translation this time [after the loss of the 116 pages] had been done in the recess of a dark artificial cave, which Smith had caused to be dug in the east side of the forest-hill near his residence. , .. [T]hough another version was, that the prophet continued to pursue his former mode of translating behind the curtain at his house, and only went into the cave to pay his spiritual devotions. 
As he claimed to be the author of the “Book of Mormon” his story was that by the aid of his wonderful stone he found gold plates on which were inscribed the writings in hieroglyphics. He translated them by means of a pair of magic spectacles which the Lord delivered to him at the same time that the golden tablets were turned up. But nobody but Joe himself ever saw the golden tablets or the far-seeing spectacles. He dictated the book, concealed behind a curtain, and it was written down by Cowdery. This course seemed to be rendered necessary by the fact that Joe did not know how to write. 
The whole history is shrouded in the deepest mystery. Joseph Smith Jr., who read through the wonderful spectacles, pretended to give the scribe the exact reading of the plates, even to spelling, in which Smith was wofully deficient. Martin Harris was permitted to be in the room with the scribe, and would try the knowledge of Smith, as he told me, saying that Smith could not spell the word February, when his eyes were off the spectacles through which he pretended to work. This ignorance of Smith was proof positive to him that Smith was dependent on the spectacles for the contents of the Bible. Smith and the plates containing the original of the Mormon Bible were hid from view of the scribe and Martin Harris by a screen. 
Richards [Martin Harris], got into the Stage house when on rout & Said he resided at Palmira, & had been to Quages, which was in the town of Colesville a few miles from South Bainbridge village to See Jos[eph] Smith, who had resided in Palmira, & had found a gold bible & stone in which he looked & was thereby enabled to translate the very ancient chara[c]ters which found in the bible. He Said Smith was poor & was living in a house which had only one room & Smith had a sheet put up in one corner & went behind it from observation when he was writing the bible. He Said Smith kept the bible hid or covered up & put it in a hat & had the Stone which found in Pal=mira & look[e]d through it & then wrote what he read in the bible. He Said would not let him see the bible but let him feel of it when it was covered up. Smith read to him a good deal of the bible & he repeated to those in the Stage verse after verse of what Smith had read to him; [emd4-145]
He farther showed this manuscript to Knight, which he claimed was translated by himself by looking through the Urim and Thummim while he sat behind a blanket hung across a room in order that the sacred records might be kept from profane eyes, and read off the “Book of Mormon,” or Golden Bible as he sometimes called it, to Oliver Cowdery who wrote it down. [emd4-232]
Joe Smith would write the translation from his plates upon a slate, or dictate what to write, and others would copy upon paper. His assistants were witness Martin Harris, and brother-in-law Reuben Hale. The translating and writing were done in the little low chamber of Joe Smith’s house. The Prophet and his precious trust were screened even from the sight of his clerks by blankets nailed to the walls. 32 The nails remained for many years just as they were driven by the Prophet, and it was not until some repairing was done a short time ago that they were drawn out. Neighbors were free to call at the house as much as they pleased while the bible was concocting, and the matter of the golden bible would be talked over. Some persons were permitted to lift the pillow case in which it was kept, and feel the thickness of the volume the plates made, but no one was permitted to see them. [emd4-355]
MRS. SALLIE MCKUNE, widow of Joseph McKune and mother of Sheriff [Benjamin] McKune, is now eighty years old. She was between twenty-five and thirty years old when Joe Smith was performing about Susquehanna, and lived upon a farm adjoining Joe Smith’s lot and the Isaac Hale farm, and in sight of the place where they dug for the ton of silver, on Jacob I. Skinner’s farm. Smith’s residence was between the residence of an addition to the house, and Mrs. McKune lived in the house about forty years. She remembers the arrangement of the nails used for hooks to hang blankets on during the translation of the golden bible. [emd4-358]
Hence the magic spectacles were very opportunely found with the plates. The little low chamber in Smith’s house was used as a translating- room. The prophet and his plates were screened even from the sight of his scribes, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery and Reuben Hale, by blankets secured with nails. While the translation was going on the neighbors frequently called to discuss the forthcoming book, which, it was alleged, would make the Hale family very rich. Occasionally a visitor was allowed to feel the thickness of the Golden Book as it reposed within a pillow-case, but no one was permitted to see it. [emd4-364]
No Curtain Accounts
In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us. 
In order to give privacy to the proceeding a blanket, which served as a portiere, was stretched across the family living room to shelter the translators and the plates from the eyes of any who might call at the house while the work was in progress. This, Mr. Whitmer says, was the only use made of the blanket, and it was not for the purpose of concealing the plates or the translator from the eyes of the amanuensis. In fact, Smith was at no time hidden from his collaborators, and the translation was performed in the presence of not only the persons mentioned, but of the entire Whitmer household and several of Smith’s relatives besides. 
I staid in Richmond two days and nights. I had a great deal of talk with widow Cowdry, and her amiable daughter. She is married to a Dr Johnson, but has no children. She gave me a certificate, And this is the copy. “Richmond, Ray Co., Mo. Feb 15, 1870–I cheerfully certify that I was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith’s translating the book of Mormon. He translated the most of it at my Father’s house. And I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together. Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating. He would place the director in his hat, and then place his face in his hat, so as to exclude the light, and then [read the words?] as they appeared before him.” 
Soon I learned that Jo claimed to be translating the plates in Badger’s Tavern, in Colesville, three miles from my house. I went there and saw Jo Smith sit by a table and put a handkerchief to his forehead and peek into his hat and call out a word to Cowdery, who sat at the same table and wrote it down. Several persons sat near the same table and there was no curtain between them. 
Opening the Heavens
 Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma;’ Saints’ Herald 26 (October 1, 1879): 289-90; and Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma;’ Saints’ Advocate 2 (October 1879): 50-52.
 John A. Clark, Gleanings By the Way (Philadelphia: W J. and J. K. Simon, 1842), 224, 228, 230-31; part of this chapter on the Mormons appeared as a letter in the Episcopal Recorder 18 (1846): 94. This interview was also reprinted in “Modern Superstition.-The Mormonites.-No. I;’ Visitor, or Monthly Instructor (1841): 62, 63-64.
 “The Book of Mormon;’ Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1885, 3· The Tribune correspondent visited and interviewed Whitmer on December 15, 1885, at Whitmer’s home in Richmond, Missouri.
 Nathan A. Tanner Jr. to Nathan A. Tanner, February 17, 1909, photocopy of typescript, 5, Church Archives. The interview occurred in May 1886.
 William E. McLellin to “My Dear Friends;’ February 1870, Community of Christ Library-Archives; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 233-34· Elizabeth Whitmer, born in 1815, was the daughter of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Whitmer (and the sister of David Whitmer). She was fourteen years old when the translation was completed at her parents’ home in Fayette, New York. She married Oliver Cowdery in 1832.
 Gold Bible, No.6;’ Reflector, March 19, 1831, 126
 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed 14, 77, 100. Based on reports by Doctor Philastus Hurlbut
 Howe, Mormonism Unvailed 270-1. Here, Howe reprints a letter, dated February 17, 1834, written by Charles Anthon
 W. R. Hine’s Statement, Naked Truths about Mormonism 1 (January 1888) 2
 Charles Anthon to Reverend T.W. Coit Apnl 3, 1841, in Clark, Gleanings By the Way, 234-35.
 Pomeroy Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism (New York: D. Appleton, 1867), 29-49·
 “Joe Smith, Something about the Early Life of the Mormon prophet;’ Detroit Post and Tribune, December 3, 1877, 3; cited in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 2:517, 520. John Gilbert (1802-95) was principal typesetter and proofreader when the Book of Mormon was printed in 1829-30.
Early Mormon Documents 4 by Dan Vogel
 William S. Sayre to James T. Cobb, 31 August 1878, Theodore A. Schroeder Papers, Archives, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin.
[355,358] [Frederick G. Mather], “The Early Mormons. Joe Smith Operates at Susquehanna,” Binghamton Republican, 29 July 1880.
 Frederick G. Mather, “The Early Days of Mormonism,” Lippincott’s Magazine (Philadelphia) 26 (August 1880): 199-203, 211.