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Splendid on a Large Scale

Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch; edited by Kim Allen Scott.
Helena, Montana: Bedrock Editions & Drumlummon Institute, 2010

"The editing of [Hans Peter] Koch’s papers provides researchers unprecedented insight into Montana’s early territorial years from an articulate observer of the frontier and one of the molders of Montana society." —Brian Shovers, Montana Historical Society

Jointly published by Drumlummon Institute and Bedrock Editions, Splendid on a Large Scale: The Writings of Hans Peter Gyllembourg Koch, Montana Territory, 1869-1874, presents the diaries and letters of a highly educated Danish immigrant who made significant contributions to the emerging EuroAmerican culture on the Montana frontier.

Known as Peter, the young man quickly grew “enthusiastic on the subject of Montana, her beauties and resources,” and his writings offer a wonderfully articulate account of his first years in a new country—as an unlikely frontiersman, often reluctant businessman, aspiring naturalist, avid bookman, and yearning lover (he wrote the bulk of his letters to his fiancée, Laurentze, whom he would wed in 1874).

Whether he was painting a picture of the home he hoped to build for his bride-to-be, lamenting the absence of good books, chronicling his efforts to trade with the Crow Indians, or describing the lynching of a murderer by vigilantes, Koch brought a sensitivity and astuteness to the task that belies his concern that the frontier might render him “rough and unpolished.”

Peter’s passion for education and book culture led him to start the Bozeman public library, but it was as co-founder of the Agricultural College of the State of Montana (today Montana State University, Bozeman) that he left his most lasting mark.

In his public spiritedness and as the “compelling, moving, driving force behind the movement for a newer education,” Peter possessed, in the words of the 1919 Bozeman Weekly Exponent, “the intelligence of an aristocrat and the heart of a democrat.”

Koch is often mentioned alongside other major collectors of the literature of western exploration. When Ripley Hitchcock discusses, in his landmark study, The Louisiana Purchase and the exploration, early history and building of the West, "the early memoirs of travelers and hunters, the tales of Indians . . . and the various personal narratives," he cites the "library of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, the Mercantile Library of St. Louis . . . and certain private libraries like those of Edward E. Ayer of Chicago [whose collections formed the backbone of the Newberry Library and the Field Museum], H. H. Bancroft of San Francisco [Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley], and the Hon. Peter Koch of Bozeman, Montana, [as especially] rich in examples of this early literature."

Edited and annotated by historian Kim Allen Scott, Splendid on a Large Scale includes not only Peter’s diaries and letters, but also an extensive introduction and afterword, Peter’s vivid account of his experiences as a trader at Fort Musselshell in 1869-1870, an essay on his extraordinary collection of the literature of western exploration, and an inventory of the most significant titles in that library.

The book is designed by Peter Rutledge Koch, great-grandson of Hans Peter Koch, one of America’s foremost letterpress printers and book artists, and founder of the Codex Foundation.

Book; 386 pp.    6 x 9 inches    300 copies.       $75.00

Splendid on a Large Scale cover. Hans Peter Koch ca. 1915.