Reflections on a week at the coalface

Palais des Papes at sunset.

Palais des Papes at sunset.

After a busy week of archival and library research I have made good headway in understanding and reconstructing Macintosh’s lost library. Of its c. 70 titles, I have physically inspected around a third (often spanning multiple volumes) and have transcribed about three quarters of the inventory of seized books. The staff at the bibliothèque municipale have been very supportive and encouraging and are keen to explore the possibilities of incorporating my findings into their catalogue or otherwise making Macintosh’s library more visible and accessible.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery this week was the letterbook of Macintosh’s outgoing correspondence that is now housed in the bibliothèque municipale. On this occasion I haven’t had the opportunity to do more than skim (and photograph) the letterbook; it’s large (490 pages) and contains somewhere in the region of 300 letters. The task of reading and distilling those will have to wait for another time.

In some respects, much of the content of Macintosh’s library is unsurprising; there are a range of books relating to India and America, several addressing the trial of Warren Hastings, and a number exploring the topic of revolution. Perhaps more surprising is the almost total absence of travel texts; Vonley’s Voyage en Syrie et en Égypte (1787) being the only example of that genre. Rather more abundant are dictionaries and grammars relating to the Italian language (one of which books Macintosh acquired in Rome in 1790). Quite what he was doing in Rome, and why he appeared to be learning Italian (something that I should be doing at the moment), are, as yet, mysteries.

So, this week has been a real step forward. There is, of course, a huge amount still to do (I’m hoping to come back for a week in October), but I am beginning to feel that I have at least seen where the limits of the primary material lie.

The ugly truth

Extract from a letter dated 15 February 1772 in which Macintosh commissions branding irons with which to mark his slaves.

Extract from a letter dated 15 February 1772 in which Macintosh commissions branding irons with which to mark his slaves. Bibliothèque Ceccano Ms. 1297.

I have written before about Macintosh’s role as slave owner and trader and how uncomfortable it is to encounter in the archive evidence of the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. It is often the matter-of-fact way in which the purchase, management, and punishment of slaves is described that is so chilling; the extract above is just one example of that. It is from a letter sent by Macintosh in February 1772 in which he commissioned branding irons for use on slaves that he owned jointly with William Pulteney. It reads:

Please to get made of silver set in a wooden handle, two such stamps as are underneath for marking our Tobago & Dominico [sic] Slaves.

Joining the dots

Order of requisition for Macintosh's effects, dated the 23rd of Nivose in the 3rd year of the French Republican calendar (12 January 1795). Archives départementales de Vaucluse 1 L 452.

Order of requisition for Macintosh’s effects, dated the 23rd of Nivose in the 3rd year of the French Republican calendar (12 January 1795). Archives départementales de Vaucluse 1 L 452.

I spent most of a blisteringly hot day yesterday escaping the record-breaking temperatures by digging in the Vaucluse departmental archives. I have now had the opportunity of seeing the full inventory of Macintosh’s library, which shows the collection to be larger than I had anticipated (in addition to books, Macintosh also had a substantial number of pamphlets, maps, and atlases). The archives also contain an extensive inventory (running to 20 pages) of the household furniture that was seized by the revolutionary authorities alongside Macintosh’s books. There are also some legal papers relating to a debt dispute between Macintosh and a cloth merchant.

Although there is much of interest in this new material, I am focusing for the moment on trying to connect the inventory of seized books to those in the municipal library. In most cases this requires a bit of guesswork. For example, item 11 in the inventory of seized books is described as “procés De hastings” (Hasting’s trial, roughly translated). Using the advanced search function of the library’s catalogue it is then possible to look for all books with the word “Hastings” in the title that date from before 1795. In this instance, the catalogue offers up five results, all of which relate to Warren Hastings. Only one title, however, Articles of charge of high crimes and misdemeanors, against Warren Hastings, Esq., relates specifically to the trial. Physical inspection of the copy reveals an ownership inscription on page 5—”W MacIntosh received in december 1786″—confirming that this is, indeed, the right title and copy.

Not all titles are so easily identifiable, partly for reasons of legibility and partly because the terms used in the French-language description of the book don’t always provide helpful keywords to guide a search of the catalogue. Nevertheless, the ball is now rolling and I am gradually accumulating the necessary data for my census in an Excel spreadsheet. 16 titles identified, 54 to go!

A census of Macintosh's library, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet.

A census of Macintosh’s library, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet.

(Back) in at the deep end

Macintosh's copy of "Dizionario delle lingue Italiana" (1787), showing that he purchased it in Rome in December 1790.

Macintosh’s copy of “Dizionario delle lingue Italiana” (1787), showing that he purchased it in Rome in December 1790.

It is thrilling, if not a little overwhelming, to be back in Avignon and to be fully immersed in the archives.

My main task this week is to put together a working catalogue of Macintosh’s library. Although all the books are (I think) housed in Avignon’s municipal library, the Médiathèque Ceccano, there is no consolidated listing of them here. What there is (elsewhere, at the Archives départementales de Vaucluse) is a listing of the books as they were seized by the revolutionary authorities in 1793. Because the archives are closed today, I have been working from a facsimile (published in the book Des Ecossais a Avignon [1993]) of the inventory that includes only the first page (11 titles out of a total of 70). Because the list is written in French, and presents an inventory of largely English-language titles, it requires a good deal of detective work with the catalogue to match the inventory with the books housed here. Each title has then to be ordered up separately so that I can check the edition details and provenance information. It’s a rather fiddly and time-consuming task that I suspect will take longer than a week to complete.

Quite by chance I was given one of the books as a microfilm, rather than a hard copy. It turned out that the microfilm contained not only the book in question, but also a 387-page manuscript letter book, covering Macintosh’s outgoing correspondence between 1763 and 1772. This was complete new to me and something I might otherwise have missed; even with the manuscript number I can’t seem to find it listed in the catalogue. This discovery means, I think, that a return visit to Avignon is inevitable (which is, perhaps, no bad thing).

Back in the saddle (and introducing Team Macintosh 2.0)

Interior of the Bibliothèque Ceccano. © Michel Planque.

Interior of the Bibliothèque Ceccano. © Michel Planque.

After a busy term marking exam scripts and coursework (and submitting another grant application to support my work on Macintosh—fingers crossed!), I am looking forward to returning to the archival trail. Next week I am heading back to Avignon (this time with family in tow) to continue the research I began in 2012. My specific focus on this occasion is Macintosh’s personal library of books, now housed at the Bibliothèque Ceccano. There are, according to the inventory, 70 titles (across 131 volumes) in Macintosh’s library. These books—along with many others from convents and monasteries—were seized during the French Revolution, and have remained in the city since 1793. In looking at these titles, I am keen to develop a sense of what Macintosh read and how it might have influenced his political philosophy and outlook on life. There is some indication that Macintosh inscribed his books with the date and location of purchase (which would be helpful additional information in reconstructing the context to his reading). I hope to assemble a catalogue of his books and to submit this as a bibliographical note to The Library.

Introducing Team Macintosh 2.0

I am delighted, again, to have two second-year students working with me this summer. Rhys and Sam (following in the footsteps of Lauren and Ophelia) have secured highly competitive Department of Geography Placement Research Assistantships, supported by Royal Holloway’s Ignition Fund, that will allow them to work with me for two weeks from the beginning of July. Ryhs and Sam will be largely be focused on the transcription of Macintosh’s letterbooks of outgoing correspondence (that date mostly from his time in the Caribbean). The work Rhys and Sam do will be extremely valuable in reconstructing Macintosh’s correspondence networks and tracing the emergence of his iconoclastic political philosophy.

Five years on the archival trail…

5-Year Anniversary

Tomorrow marks the fifth birthday of On the archival trail of William Macintosh. When I started the blog I imagined this would be a rather more short-lived project—not fast, exactly, just not quite as slow-going as it has proved to be. Unsuccessful grant applications, burdensome administrative duties, and, more recently, all-hands-to-the-pumps parenthood have all conspired to make this, necessarily, a work of slow scholarship. When I return to Avignon in June for more archival research it will be with my family in tow. Life has changed, but my enthusiasm for the project has endured. In some ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.

If all goes according to plan, by the end of the year I should have completed a short paper on Macintosh’s library, a longer chapter on his experiences in India, and a book proposal for what I have been calling (but will almost certainly retitle) The forgotten radical: William Macintosh and the transnational circulation of seditious print in the Age of Revolution. The book proposal really just marks the start of the project’s main phase: two or three years of writing followed by a year or so in production. Unless I am lucky enough to secure a fellowship that would buy me some time for writing, the fifth birthday of On the archival trail… probably marks the project’s midway point. Five years down, five to go!

To mark this midlife midpoint, I return here to the subject of my first blog post: William Macintoh’s will. With the occasional help of others, most recently Dorian Grieve, I have been chipping away at the transcription and trying to identify those individuals to whom Macintosh makes reference. While there is still some work to do, the transcription is now in a fit state for publication:


The National Archives
PROB 11/1579

I William Macintosh a natural born and Loyal Subject of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Esquire now residing in the City of Eisenach and Dutchy [sic] of that name in Germany being in a very advanced Age and infirm of body think it a special duty on me to make some arrangement and disposition of my temporal Concerns however insignificant they may seem at this distracted critical conjuncture of Europe and the Terrestrial World I do therefore declare this present writing to be of the nature and to serve to all intents and purposes whatsoever as my last Will and Testament 1mo I do constitute and appoint Augustus Streiber of the said City of Eisenach Esqre sole Trustee and Depositary (Fides Comis [i.e., fideicommissum]) of all and every the Effects of which I shall die possessed in the said City and of Dutchy [sic] of Eisenach or elsewhere in Germany requiring and Soliciting the nonintervention of the Government or Magistrature directly or indirectly therein and requiring the said Augustus Streiber to give Notice of my decease and of this disposition to my old Friend John Frederick Perregaux Banker in Paris also to Alexander Augustus Le Sieur de Coleville, my son in law at Caen or Vieux-Fume in the Department of Calvados in France and likewise to my Nephew Charles Macintosh Esqre in Glasgow 2do I constitute and appoint the said Mr Perregaux & Le Sieur de Coleville my true and lawful Trustees and irrevocable Attorneys jointly and severally to recover my Claims on the Government of France and other persons in that Empire to receive what is recoverable and to grant Releases for the Same 3tio I enjoin that whatever sums of money my late Brother George Macintosh Esqre of Glasgow or his son Charles or the Executors and Heirs of my said Brother have already or may hereafter adventure for my use together with interest shall be reimbursed and paid the said Mr Perregaux being reimbursed whatever claim he may have on my Succession and lastly I do by this present writing declare my Daughter Mary the Wife of the said Mr Le Sieur and her said Husband to be the Heirs to the Residue of whatever shall be recovered in France or elsewhere for the use and benefit of their three Daurs [sic] Matilda Anna and Emily share and share alike and to their respective Heirs It is my further request of Mr Perregaux that he do burn or otherwise destroy all former letters or Wills committed by me to his Custody being in the nature of last Wills or Testaments [end p. 265]*

In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed and set my seal written with my own hand in Eisenach the thirtieth day of December in the year of our Lord 1807 William Macintosh & signed and sealed in the presence of  J[ohann] C[hristian] Roese [1778–1836] C Avenmarg.

Whereas I William Macintosh a natural born subject of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at present residing in Eisenach did upon the 30th day of December in the year 1807 make my last Will and Testament with a duplicate in original one of which I immediately deposited in the hands of Augustus Streiber Counsellor of Legation and Merchant in Eisenach aforesaid and the other I transmitted under a Sealed Cover to Alexander Augustus Le Sieur Esquire in the City of Caen and Department of Calvados in France to remain in that state until my decease in which last Will and Testament I constituted him the said Alexander Augustus Le Sieur and his lawful Wife Maria Macintosh my Daughter my Heirs and for as much as the said Alexander Augustus Le Sieur has lately contrary to the established opinion entertained of him by all persons abandoned his Wife and Family and Country in a manner highly disreputable and offensive without having had the least provocation I hence thought it highly proper and necessary to make this present writing as a Codicil to my said last Will and Testament revoking and annulling to all intents and purposes whatever powers might have or interest I may have vested in him and I do create and constitute my said Daughter Maria sole Heiress of all and whatsoever I may die possessed of in the first place for her own subsistence and the maintenance and Education of her four Children by the said A A Le Sieur named Mathilda [sic] Anna Amelia and Isaure in the manner as expressed in the said Testament it being proper to observer that the name of Isaure was not mentioned in the foresaid Testament as she was not then born and I do authorise my said Daughter to constitute and appoint any reputable and prudent person either in Paris or in Caen to act conjointly with herself for the liquidation and adjustments and finally for recovering and acquitting whatsoever claims or demands I may have in France or elsewhere upon the Continent of Europe and as it is most probable that I shall finish my Earthly existence in this City of Eisenach and considering the late misconduct of my daughters [sic] husband I think it right to direct that such small effects as I may die possessed of in Eisenach may be disposed of by private Sale and not by Auction or Public Sale and it is my further Will and desire that whatever other directions concerning those trifling objects I may leave in writing in the nature of a Memorandum or Letter addressed to the said Mr Streiber may be considered of equal validity as if inserted in the body of my Testament or in this Codicil In Testimony of all which I have subscribed my name and affixed my Seal to this present writing written with my own hand at Eisenach this Eighteenth day of October in the year of our Lord 1816 William Macintosh & Signed Sealed and Acknowledged as a Codicil to my last Will and Testament in the presence of Gottlieb Guillaume Pistorius, Conseiller et Secretaire de la Regence Ducale d’Eisenach. Jean [Johann] Gottlieb Schmid Secretaire de la Regence Ducale d’Eisenach.

Proved at London with a Codicil 13 April 1816 before the Judge by the Oath of Maria Macintosh Wife of Alexander Augustus Le Sieur de Colleville the daughter the Sole Heiress or Executrix named in the said Codicil to whom Admin was granted being being [sic] first sworn by commission duly to administer.

* Note that the third Daur [sic] whom I have distinguished by the name of Emily was baptized by the name of Amelia and is therefore the same Person. W. M.

Macintosh in Switzerland

The snowy Swiss countryside at dawn from the train to Neuchâtel.

The snowy Swiss countryside at dawn from the train to Neuchâtel.

I was fortunate this week to participate in an extremely interesting workshop,
Géographies en mouvements, organised under the auspices of the Programme Doctoral de Géographie of the Conférence Universitaire de Suisse Occidentale. The event brought together PhD students from a number of Swiss universities (namely Fribourg, GenevaLausanne, and Neuchâtel) to discuss, in broad terms, the mobility, circulation, and reception of ideas. Organised by Juliet Fall, the programme included, among other things, a contribution by Caterina Martinelli (a Royal Holloway alumna) on the linguistic and other barriers to the circulation of geographical ideas between Anglophone and non-Anglophone contexts.

It was particularly nice to be able to present my work on Macintosh to the (French-speaking) group, not least because I was able to discuss with them the translation of Travels into French and the linguistic and conceptual shifts that occurred in that process. There was also a specific local connection. Our venue, a wonderful eco hotel, farm, and organic restaurant in Montezillon, was situated in the hills above Neuchâtel, where copies of the French translation of Travels were sold and distributed by the Société typographique de Neuchâtel some 230 years ago.

Macintosh: published!

Mobilites of Knowledge

I am delighted to report that the first paper emerging directly from my research on William Macintosh has just been published in an excellent edited collection, Mobilities of knowledge. The book has been a rather long time coming (I submitting my chapter in 2012, I think), but has been worth the wait (not least because the book had been published on an open-access basis). The editors, Heike Jöns, Peter Meusburger, and Michael Heffernan, have brought together an interesting and diverse set of contributions that will doubtless appeal to scholars in a wide range of disciplines.

My own chapter—“Circulating seditious knowledge: the ‘daring absurdities, studied misrepresentations, and abominable falsehoods’ of William Macintosh”—examines the authorship, publication, translation, and edition history of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The abstract follows:

The author examines the writing, editing, anonymous publication, and translation of a late-eighteenth-century text of travel and political sedition: Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (1782). Written by William Macintosh, a Scots-born Caribbean plantation owner turned political commentator, Travels was considered by contemporaries to be incendiary—precipitating British governmental action against the East India Company, inspiring revolutionary spirit in France, informing politicians in the United States during the drafting of the Constitution, and instructing natural philosophers in Germany on questions of race and civilization. The author argues that the international spatial mobility of Macintosh’s book was facilitated by geographically distinct acts of editing, translation, and reproduction. The complex publication history of Travels—across editions in English, German, and French—is used to demonstrate that Macintosh’s work was differently staged for different linguistic audiences. The author concludes by reflecting more broadly on the importance of mediation to the mobility of knowledge.

Macintosh and the Google Doodle

The Google Doodle marking the 250th birthday of Charles Macintosh.

The Google Doodle marking the 250th birthday of Charles Macintosh.

On 29 December 2016, Google marked the 250th birthday of William Macintosh’s nephew, Charles, with a Google Doodle. Charles (1766–1843) was the inventor of the fabric waterproofing process that gave rise to the eponymous Macintosh (later Mackintosh) coat.

In my research on William, Charles is significant insofar as he was the subject of a useful privately printed biography, written by his son George, that contains, as an appendix, a short account of William’s life. This account is based, in part, on family correspondence that is now lost and is particularly valuable in fleshing out William’s period of exile in Germany towards the end of his life. Had William’s nephew not found fame through his invention, it is unlikely that any of the valuable biographical detail concerning William’s life would have been recorded in this way.

In 2014 I visited Charles’s grave at Glasgow Cathedral with his descendent, Deirdre Grieve (who was kind enough to alert me to the Google Doodle).

Macintosh in Nottingham

Sunset (and moonrise) over the University of Nottingham.

Sunset (and moonrise) over the University of Nottingham.

On Wednesday I had the pleasure of giving a seminar paper on Macintosh to the Cultural and Historical Geography Research Group in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham (and catching up, there, with many friends and colleagues). After a long term spent writing new lectures, it was nice to have the excuse to return to Macintosh and to bring in some of the new material uncovered this summer by my undergraduate research assistants.

Wednesday’s talk followed a wonderful reception the night before at 50 Albemarle Street, home of John Murray (firm and family, both). The reception was held to mark David McClay’s 10-year curatorship of the John Murray Archive (JMA). As David is stepping down from his role, the reception was a welcome opportunity for those who have been guided in their use of the JMA by David to offer thanks. Although Macintosh’s involvement with the Murray firm predated its move to Albemarle Street in 1812, it is always a pleasure to visit, so redolent is it of a literary world now gone.

John R. Murray in the drawing room of Albemarle Street, proposing thanks to David McClay.

John R. Murray in the drawing room of Albemarle Street, proposing thanks to David McClay.