Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - April - 2008 Issue

Murder Most Foul and Other Books of Law from the Lawbook Exchange

Lawbook54

There are many legal works in Catalogue 54 from the Lawbook Exchange.


By Michael Stillman

Catalogue 54 of Law and Legal History has been issued by The Lawbook Exchange. It offers a combination of antiquarian legal texts, constitutional documents, and more entertaining works, such as accounts of horrible murder trials. For those of a serious legal mind, and those of a non-serious, Nancy Grace legal entertainment one, there is something here for you. Forgive me for focusing more on the Nancy Grace material, but we are here to entertain, and as television has established, what could be more entertaining than a gruesome murder? So, here we go.

The Trial of Charles M. Jefferds for Murder, at New York, December 1861, covered the murder of two respectable citizens. "No occurrence has ever caused greater horror in the city of New York," it says in what is probably a bit of hyperbole. On June 30, 1860, John Walton, a wealthy businessman, was gunned down on the streets of New York. His assailant fled, pursued by a group of public-minded citizens. The fastest of these was John Matthews, who almost caught up. When he was within six feet of the assailant, the latter whirled around and shot Matthews, killing him too. Jefferds was a logical suspect. He was Walton's stepson, and Walton and Jefferds' mother were in the process of an acrimonious split. He was arrested and put on trial for Walton's murder, proclaimed his innocence, and was acquitted. However, there were no other suspects, and police were convinced Jefferds was the killer. So they sent an undercover agent, to whom Jefferds was said to have confessed his guilt. With that and some other later developed evidence, Jefferds was again put on trial, this time for the killing of Matthews. Twice was not a charm for Jefferds, who was convicted in the second trial, sentenced to death, but murdered in prison before making it to the gallows. Item 80. Priced at $150.

That was the pleasant murder story. Here is the gruesome one: Fairburn's Third Edition of the Trial of John Holloway and Owen Haggerty for the Wilful Murder of Mr. Steele...and of Elizabeth Godfrey for Stabbing Rd. Prince in the Eye....to which is added a Circumstantial Account of the Dreadful Accident which happened at the Place of Execution... This case was a disaster in many ways. Holloway and Haggerty had been convicted of the murder of Steele for his money primarily on the testimony of a scofflaw who was promised a pardon for his testimony. The result was much public doubt as to their guilt. Godfrey, a prostitute who killed customer Richard Prince, was an afterthought except that she was taken to be hanged the same day. The doubt over Holloway and Haggerty's guilt drew a huge crowd to the gallows, reportedly some 40,000. It turned into a mob scene, with numerous spectators being crushed or suffocated by the crowd. Forty people not sent to the gallows also perished that day. Meanwhile, the hangman apparently panicked and did not properly hang Ms. Godfrey, who was still kicking at the end of her rope a half hour later. This happy story from old London town was published in 1807. $1,250.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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