Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2006 Issue

Early American Law from William Reese Co.

Ves

Possibly the first Montana imprint tells of criminals and vigilantes.


Crime always pays, at least for those who write and report about it (witness the spate of TV shows about crime today). Here is a rare book about criminals from 1866, one of the earliest Montana imprints: The Vigilantes of Montana, or Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains. Being a Correct and Impartial Narrative of the Chase, Trial, Capture and Execution of Henry Plummer's Road Agent Band...by Thomas Dimsdale. This has been described by some bibliographers as the first book printed in Montana, though we cannot verify this. Lawlessness reigned in early Montana, and Henry Plummer's gang was evidently one of the more notorious, engaging in robberies and murder. Once captured, the local townfolk wanted him strung up as soon as possible. He was convicted, but the jury voted for banishment and confiscation of property, rather than death. This did not sit well with the locals, who promptly captured Plummer at his home and marched him to the gallows. Dimsdale's account is said to be one of the best pictures of the lawless conditions that existed in Montana at the time. It is also described as a good attempt to be impartial, though the author's sentiments do come out, particularly at the end where he proclaims, "No man need be ashamed of his connection with the Virginia Vigilantes." Those who strung up Plummer were the "Virginia Vigilantes" as the event took place in Virginia City, Montana. Item 47. $17,500.

Pedro Gibert and his band of twelve accomplices were said to be the last pirates operating in U.S. waters. Gibert was no Johnny Depp. In 1832, they captured the brig Mexican, stole its silver, locked the men below, and set it on fire. The crew managed to escape before being burned alive, and were able to report the piracy to authorities. A year later, British authorities found the pirates off the African coast, attempting to transport slaves. The British blew up their ship and brought the men to Boston for trial. Gibert and his crew were convicted, and all thirteen were hanged. Item 63, published in 1834, retells the story: A Report of the Trial of Pedro Gibert, Bernardo de Soto... $1,500.

You may reach the William Reese Company online at www.reeseco.com, or by phone at 203-789-8081.

Rare Book Monthly

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