Monthly Archives: April 2012

Getting to know Macintosh’s readers: Charles Pinckney (1757–1824)

On 10 January 1785, a twenty-seven-year-old politician, Charles Pinckney (1757–1824), purchased a copy of the first Dublin edition of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa in New York. The South Carolinian was then serving in the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates who had drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1777 and were then engaged in drawing up the Constitution, among much else. The next day, 11 January, the Congress officially convened at the City Hall in New York. The most significant piece of legislation which it issued that year was the 1785 Land Ordinance—a mechanism for the parcelling-up and sale of unmapped territory west of the Thirteen Colonies.

Charles Pinckney (1757–1824)

Charles Pinckney (1757–1824). Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-6088.

Pinckney was a curious character—he seems to have been rather vain and self-important—but clearly assumed a central role in drafting the Constitution in 1787. To what extent, if any, he was informed in this activity by his reading of Macintosh’s text is something I intend to investigate. In the presidential election of 1800, Pinckney served as Thomas Jefferson’s campaign manager in South Carolina. Jefferson had also read Macintosh’s book (more on this later).

Pinckney’s copy of Travels is now in the Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of South Carolina. The front matter contains Pinckney’s signature, but also a short advertisement, pasted in by the Dublin bookseller Charles Lodge, designed to convey to the public the importance and interest of Macintosh’s book. The advert reads:

The intent of this Publication by its humane and patriotic Author, is to rescue Millions of Souls from groaning and bleeding under the iron Yoke of Tyranny and Oppression. He hath given in the Course of his Work, the most striking Proofs of Cruelty and Injustice, in the Mismanagement of the East-India Company’s Servants. It hath been from this ample Source of Information, that both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox deduced their Knowledge, and founded all their Measures in their respective East-India Bills. In a Word, these interesting Volumes have caused greater Agitations in the English Cabinet, and greater Discussions in the English Senate, than, any Work published within the present Century. Whoever would form a just Idea of India Affairs, together with the modern State of Europe and Africa, may obtain it from a Perusal of this very ingenious and entertaining Publication.

Front matter of Pinckney’s copy of “Travels”

Front matter of Pinckney’s copy of “Travels”. Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections, University of South Carolina, G460 .M3 1782.

A number of on-line resources—including the Journals of the Continental Congress and  Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789will be useful in investigating Pinckney’s life, work, and political interests.

Like James Cox (discussed in an earlier post), Pinckney accumulated a library consisting of more than 2,000 volumes.

Getting to know Macintosh’s readers: James Cox (1751–1834)

William Macintosh’s 1782 text, Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa, passed through various editions (in London and Dublin) and was translated into French and German. As such, its readership was large and varied—encompassing British politicians, German humanists, French revolutionaries, and at least two American presidents (more on this later). To properly trace the influence and impact of Macintosh’s book means reconstructing his audience—identifying who read the book and what they made of it.

One method by which Macintosh’s audience can be recovered is by examining the surviving copies of his book for indications of provenance. First, though, it is necessary to identify where copies of the book exist. This is something I will be doing systematically when the project begins in earnest, but I have begun to assemble some information from the English Short-Title Catalogue (which has a partial list of holdings of English-language books published in or before 1800); the OCLC’s WorldCat union catalogue; and Copac. Having identified where copies of the book survive—in London, Dublin, Leipzig, or Paris editions—it is then possible to examine them for traces of ownership.

Bookplate of the Library Company of Philadelphia

Bookplate of James Cox in Dublin edition of Macintosh’s text. Library Company of Philadelphia, U Eur Maci 4510.D (Cox).

My former Royal Holloway colleague, David Lambert, is currently Barra Foundation International Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia and Historical Society of Pennsylvania and was kind enough to take a look at some of the surviving copies of Macintosh’s book in Philadelphia. The image above is taken from one of those at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and contains a bookplate which indicates the volume was purcahsed from the Philadelphia artist and book collector, James Cox (1751–1834). Cox was born in England, but spent most of his life in Philadelphia, where he offered occasional tutoring in painting and draftsmanship, but mainly indulged his passion for book collecting.

Cox was, clearly, a character—one obituary describes him as a “solitary being of extremely eccentric habits”. In addition to his books, Cox found company in a dog and a macaw, the latter animal remarkable for its “splendid plumage, its loquacity, and mischievous disposition”. Cox’s library consisted of some five thousand volumes and would have been one of the largest private collections in Philadelphia at that time. Cox’s books were stored in somewhat ramshackle conditions: “on shelves in double and treble rows, and covered with cobwebs and dust, while the floor was strewn with portfolios of drawings, scraps of music, broken instruments, hour-glasses, plaster casts, &c, with not a few evidences of the inroads of vermin of sundry descriptions”. Cox eventually donated his collection to the Library Company of Philadelphia, in return for an annual pension of $400. The bookplate in the image above was inserted into each book Cox donated. His copy of Remarks on a tour through the different countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa (the second Dublin edition was titled thus) was number 4,510.

Oil painting of James Cox

James Cox (1751–1834). Library Company of Philadelphia, OBJ 252.

This is all very interesting, of course, but it does not tell us a great deal yet about the impact and influence of Macintosh’s writing on Cox (if any). It does, however, offer us insight into the transnational flow of the different editions of Macintosh’s text. Most American readers of the book seem to have encountered it in the Dublin edition. Quite why this was, is a question I will be exploring. What can we say about Cox for now, other than that he clearly had a nose for a good book?

Beginning at the end

William Macintosh’s will

William Macintosh’s will. The National Archives, PROB 11/1579.

The one certainty in historical, biographical research is that the subject of one’s attention was born and subsequently died. Actually pinning down those dates can, however, be tricky, especially when your quarry—in my case a Scottish merchant, author, and political agitator, William Macintosh—has largely escaped scholarly attention. Macintosh’s dates of birth and death are, to borrow from Rumsfeld, my current known unknowns.

The purpose of this blog is to describe, and reflect on, archival practice and historical research in geography—to describe my circuitous journey on the archival trail of Macintosh. It will show, I’m sure, my meanderings down various dead-ends, but also those rare moments of discovery whilst, over the next few years, I piece (intellectually speaking) Macintosh back together.

I was delighted recently to track down Macintosh’s last will and testament at the National Archives (PROB 11/1579). It was written in 1807 whilst Macintosh’s was resident in the German city of Eisenach. Quite why Macintosh was in Eisenach is currently unclear (it’s already on my to-find-out list), but it’s evident that he had fallen on hard times. He was, as his will records, then “in a very advanced age and infirm of body” and virtually penniless. Macintosh’s repeated requests to the British government for a pension were ignored and he  subsisted largely on notes of credit. His will is significant because it names his beneficiaries and is useful in my efforts to map his family structure and his friendship network.

Written originally in 1807, Macintosh’s will seems to have had a codicil added to it in 1816. Macintosh’s will was proved (on 16 April 1816) in London at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC). The PCC operated under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and assumed a role in the probate of wills that had a value of more than £5. The only existing biography of Macintosh (written by his great nephew) suggests he died in 1809, something which the date of the codicil seems to contradict. Clearly it’ll require a bit more digging before I can confidently state Macintosh’s date of death. Then, perhaps, I can turn to his date of birth!