And speaking of circuses…! Why Granville Stuart’s “Montana As It Is” is so rarely seen

Hold on to your Stetsons, buckaroos, this one is gonna take you for a wild ride!

My readers will recall that I’ve previously written about what an excellent resource we rediscover in the book “Montana As It Is” (1865).

(See “Granville Stuart’s Overlooked Oregon Chinuk Wawa, and Potential Benefits to Grand Ronde“.)

Here I keep up our recent circus theme with a real doozy of a plot twist.

Guess what the reason is for the obscurity of Stuart’s book? The catalogue of a rare-book sale gives it away:

Montana as it is

[item] 1341 Montana. Stuart, Granville. Montana As It Is; a general description of its Resources, both Mineral and Agricultural, with a Complete Dictionary of the Snake Language, and also of the Famous Chinook Jargon, with numerous Critical and Explanatory Notes, concerning the Habits, Superstitions, etc., of these Indians. Large folding map of the Territory, drawn by Capt. W.W. De Lacy, showing the different roads and location of Mining Districts. 8vo, original tinted paper covers, pp. 175. New York, 1865. $10.00

A beautiful copy of a rare work. Laid in is an interesting A.L.S. [autograph letter, signed] from the author. The edition of 1,500 copies was all destroyed in the fire that burned Barnum’s Museum, except 400 copies; out of these 400 copies, “100 were sent to the author in Montana, were one and a half years in reaching me on a bull train, got wet and were about ruined.”

— from “Bibliotheca Americana: Priced Catalogue of a Remarkable Collection of Scarce and Out-of-print Books Relating to the Discovery, Settlement, and History of the Western Hemisphere, Comprising Early Voyages of Discovery, First Settlement of the Colonies ; French and Indian War ; the Revolution, Washingtoniana ; War of 1812 ; War with Mexico ; Civil and Political History of the United States” by Francis Perego Harper. New York: Lathrop C. Harper, Inc., 1910

For more about Stuart’s connection with P.T. Barnum, you might enjoy the biography “As Big As the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart” by Miner and O’Connor. That book includes Stuart’s anecdote of having baffled Italians in Uruguay by speaking Chinook Jargon to them (page 298).

All in a day’s work as a linguistic archaeologist of “The Jargon” — uncovering some fairly stunning connections among historical personalities and places!

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