The Life of Thomas Munn, alias, the Gentleman Brick-maker, alias, Tom The Smuggler is a 270-year-old booklet revealing Munn’s deathbed confessions including an experience of gay seduction, smuggling and robbery.
There are believed to be only four copies of the 1750 publication in libraries around the world and this copy was tracked down in the US by Kent book dealer Justin Croft.
Horsham District Council’s museum was able to purchase the booklet for £675 with funding from the Friends of the National Libraries and a discount by Croft.
Jeremy Knight, curator at Horsham Museum & Art Gallery, said: “Without their generosity, and the sharp eye of Justin who saw it on an American auction site, the people of Horsham district and further afield would not have the opportunity to explore this remarkable story.”
The 24-page autobiographical pamphlet was written just before Munn was hanged. He was executed with John Hall (alias Rich) in April 1750, at Chelmsford and “hung in chains near Rumford Gallows” for robbing the Yarmouth Mail.
His story includes tales of his pranks and crimes across the UK from Kent to the south west and even in France.
Among the stories are accounts of his antics in Horsham, West Sussex, including him working as a brickmaker (earlier than it was previously known that bricks were made in the area) and an attempted matchmaking with a toothless 70-year-old widow.
Also noteworthy in the booklet is an account of the approach of the son of an innkeeper to sleep naked with Munn.
Knight said Munn’s account “shows that he had a more enlightened approach to sexual identity as Munn all but came out and said he was tempted to take up the young man’s bedtime offer”.
The publication will go on display in a new gallery when Horsham Museum reopens this summer.