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.

A celebrated author?

Title page of Catalogue of Five Hundred Celebrated Authors of Great Britain, Now Living (1788).

Title page of Catalogue of Five Hundred Celebrated Authors of Great Britain, Now Living (1788).

Given that Macintosh and his book have, over the centuries, drifted into obscurity and are often altogether absent from historical studies of the Age of Revolution, I am always interested in contemporary sources that attest to the significance that he, and Travels, had to eighteenth-century readers. One such source is the 1788 volume Catalogue of Five Hundred Celebrated Authors of Great Britain, Now Living.

The entry for Macintosh is only short, just a single sentence, but his inclusion here nevertheless speaks to his relative importance (at least in the view of the book’s compiler, a Mr Abercrombie). Macintosh is herein described as “Author of Travels in Europe, Asia and Africa in two volumes octavo, which gave offence to some of our East Indian nabobs, and were answered by Captain Joseph Price”.

As with all such lists, of course, the inclusion or exclusion of particular individuals is an issue that arouses strong views. This was certainly true in relation to Abercrombie’s Catalogue; the book was subject to rather excoriating reviews in The Gentleman’s Magazine and The Monthly Review on this point and on the patchy biographical treatment of those listed.

Notwithstanding the apparent deficiencies of Abercrombie’s Catalogue, the fact that Macintosh was included at all is helpful in establishing his contemporary significance and celebrity.

Macintosh redux

Volume 2 of "Travels" with its new spine.

Volume 2 of “Travels” with its new spine.

Last year I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the second volume of Travels from an Illinois-based book collector, Jeff Armstrong. The book was in pretty good shape, but the front board and free endpaper were detached from the spine and the headband and tailband were crumbling. After much deliberation, and very much in heart-over-head mood (this is an expensive business, after all), I decided to get the book repaired. The work was carried out by Otter Bookbinding, who did a splendid job (not adequately attested to in the photograph above). As far as I can tell, this is the first repair work to be carried out in this book’s 234-year history. If the book continues to hold up similarly well, the next repair shouldn’t come due before 2250.

Proofs of "Circulating seditious knowledge".

Proofs of “Circulating seditious knowledge”.

On the day I took delivery of the repaired book, I also received proofs of the long-in-press chapter on Macintosh, part of an edited collection, Mobilities of knowledge, due out in Springer’s Knowledge and space series next month. After a half-decade gestation, it will be good to see this chapter finally out, not least because the whole book will be open access. Mobilities is due to be published on 24 October.

Both the repaired book and the chapter proofs are a welcome boost following news this summer that my application to the Leverhulme Trust for research funding had been unsuccessful.

Reflections on the placement

Ophelia and Lauren engaged in transcription.

Ophelia and Lauren engaged in transcription.

For the past three weeks, I have been fortunate to have had the enthusiastic and careful assistance of Ophelia King and Lauren Muir—working as Department of Geography Placement Research Assistants—in transcribing a large quantity of Macintosh’s correspondence. All told, Team Macintosh transcribed more than 250 images of correspondence (more than half of the material I photographed in Avignon in 2012), undertook helpful primary research at the National Archives, and completed very useful name indexes for the two volumes of Macintosh’s Travels. Here, I ask Ophelia and Lauren to reflect on their experience.

What have you most enjoyed about the placement?

Lauren: I have genuinely enjoyed every aspect of this placement but the most enjoyable aspect has been continuously unravelling the journey that Macintosh embarked upon and finding out connections between many of his correspondences. To be a part of bringing Macintosh’s work ‘back to life’, so to speak, has been greatly interesting in every way and I have really enjoyed discovering how his works are so important to both modern and historical geographies.

Ophelia: Working within Team Macintosh over the past few weeks has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Both working within the office and at the National Archives has been fun and enlightening, as it has allowed me to develop an understanding about a period of history and parts of geography that I love, all while working within a wonderfully talented team. I really would love to do the past three weeks all over again!

What was the most challenging aspect?

Lauren: Aside from the horrendous handwriting of some of Macintosh’s acquaintances, which slowed the transcription process at particular times, the most challenging aspect of this placement was finding further information that confirmed the identity of an individual mentioned in one of the letters.

Ophelia: The most challenging aspect of this placement, for me, has been trying to work out and research parts of the material we could not transcribe. Due to different people having various different styles of writing it meant that even with the three of us researching one specific area we could not accurately transcribe the material. This was particularly frustrating but made the experience all the more worthwhile when the three of us could help each other to piece together the puzzle of William Macintosh’s life!

What do you think you will take away from the experience?

Lauren: The whole process has truly been one of the most interesting things I have done throughout my time at university thus far and I have definitely enjoyed furthering my academic research skills both in the office and through our trip to the National Archives. This transferable skill is one I would not have had acquired had I not been given this opportunity and it is something that will undoubtedly be useful in both further education and within my future career.

Ophelia: This placement within the department of Geography has provided me with a plethora of opportunities to develop skills which will undoubtedly prove useful throughout further education and for my future career. I am so very grateful to have been given this opportunity to work within such a fantastic team and to advance a number of transferable skills, due to work within both the office and the National Archives.

To Kew to view Macintosh

Team Macintosh at the National Archives, Kew.

Team Macintosh at the National Archives, Kew.

Team Macintosh (Lauren and Ophelia), now in the third week of their placement, have been making excellent progress in transcribing Macintosh’s correspondence from the Archives départementales de Vaucluse. So much so, in fact, that we were able to spend time today at the National Archives in Kew undertaking some original research.

The team was there to view the original copy of William Macintosh’s will and to read letters concerning a dispute between Macintosh and Richard Burke, Collector of Customs at Grenada, and brother of the more-famous Edmund.

Team Macintosh hard at work in the archive.

Team Macintosh hard at work in the archive.

Team Macintosh reflect on their first week

Team Macintosh have just begun the second week of their placement in the Department of Geography. Here, I turn the blog over to Lauren and Ophelia to offer their reflections on their first week as research assistants:

Lauren Muir

Lauren Muir

Despite thus far having only transcribed a small percentage of William Macintosh’s correspondence, Team Macintosh is undoubtedly making significant progress in revealing several interesting aspects of the late travel writer’s life and adventures.

There are, of course, many challenges in trying to read eighteenth-century handwriting. In addition to the smudges and tears that obscure many of the letters, accurate transcription depends upon having a dictionary to hand and one’s brains engaged. Existing records and transitions, and on-line resources, are searched in the hope of correctly identifying some archaic word, only to find that a random-seeming squiggle is, in fact, the name of an acquaintance of Mr Macintosh or, indeed, a very simple word! Though some words may never be deciphered, a feeling of elation occurs when, having had the entire team staring vacuously at the same apparently indecipherable script for a long time, we finally succeed in identifying a previously unreadable word or phrase.

Whilst ‘transcribing eighteenth-century handwriting’ may not ordinarily be at the top of the list of abilities to include in a CV, there are undoubtedly many other skills that have been, and will be, acquired throughout this placement; we have been provided with an invaluable opportunity in being able to develop our research skills in an academic environment in addition to furthering our analytical abilities, teamwork, and organisational skills. The communications and adventures of William Macintosh are genuinely interesting and the next two weeks of transcription will provide further pieces to slot in a fascinating puzzle that is was his life.

— Lauren

Ophelia King

Ophelia King

Having always had a keen interest in history, particularly the period since the Enlightenment, I was very excited when a research opportunity in historical geography arose within Royal Holloway’s Department of Geography, and I quickly set my sights on applying for the position. Now, working alongside an extremely conscientious classmate, Lauren, we both have the lucky opportunity to work closely with many interesting eighteenth-century letters sent to and from a surprisingly unknown Scotsman, William Macintosh.

Upon arriving on our first day, one week ago (and after having navigated a few technical difficulties with IT), we first viewed the letters which we would spend the next three weeks working on. At first glance the papers looked like a beautiful, artistic, calligraphic maze which we had to battle our way through, and, indeed, it was extremely challenging at first to comprehend all the points various individuals were trying to make. But several cups of coffee later, we finally began to master it!

Obviously, some people wrote in a clearer fashion than did others, and probably one of the most frustrating parts of this placement is the fact that if you cannot decipher a word then it will likely forever remain unknown, but that fact has only made us more driven to understand the true meaning of the correspondences between Macintosh and his acquaintances.

After only one week, this experience has allowed me to develop particular skills surrounding, but not limited to, time management and attention to detail in a formal academic research environment, whilst supplementing a key interest in history (and so contributing experience towards a related future career).

I am very grateful to work within Team Macintosh, and alongside Dr Keighren, and contribute to his research about an exceedingly interesting period of history. I am looking forward to seeing what we will discover about William Macintosh over the next two weeks.

— Ophelia