Monthly Archives: June 2012

Getting to know Macintosh’s European buyers

The University of Leeds’s superb AHRC-funded project, “The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe”, has recently made its database available for public searching. The project maps the trade of the Swiss publishing house, Société Typographique de Neuchâtel (STN).

The French translator of Macintosh’s book, Jacques-Pierre Brissot (1754–1793), had a close working relationship with STN and the project’s database contains information related to the sale of a number of Brissot’s books, including his Voyages en Europe, en Asie et en Afrique (1786).

The database shows a number of booksellers to whom copies of Voyages was dispatched and gives an important indication of its geographical circulation. All valuable grist to the mill! Congratulations are due to the project team for putting together such an excellent resource.

Screenshot from STN Online Database Archive

STN Online Database Archive showing the purchasers of the French translation of Macintosh’s book.

Macintosh: “a man of mystery”

After five weeks of marking—and in the gaps left by my fits-and-starts writing on Travels into Print (it is coming along, albeit slowly)—I have returned briefly to Macintosh’s trail. In terms of his appearance in the scholarly record, it would be fair to say that Macintosh occupies interstitial space—more often to be found in footnotes than in the main body of the text.

It is, I suppose, Macintosh’s anonymity that I find so curious and compelling. Given that his book was read by British politicians, French revolutionaries, German humanists, and at least two U.S. Presidents, and that it helped to fundamentally alter the government of British India, his erasure from the historical record is both noteworthy and confounding. It is unsurprising, therefore, that one author described him as “a man of mystery”—a shadowy figure on the periphery of mainstream historiography (Fraser 1915, 18).

Macintosh’s most recent appearance in a scholarly footnote occurs in Emma Rothschild’s excellent The inner lives of empires: an eighteenth-century history (2011). Rothschild’s book is a prosopography, tracing the history of one generation of a Scottish family—the Johnstones—across and through Britain’s eighteenth-century empire. One of the Johnstones, William (1729–1805), owned and managed plantations in the Caribbean and did so (it seems) in partnership with Macintosh. According to one letter from William Johnstone, Macintosh “ran away to the island of Madeira” leaving “large debts ” (Rothschild 2011, 356).

The Inner Lives of Empire

The Inner Lives of Empire (2011).

Although only referred to in The inner life of empires as “a man called Macintosh”, I have had an email exchange with Rothschild and we are both fairly confident that her Macintosh is also my Macintosh (Rothschild 2011, 356). Johnstone’s papers at the Huntington Library and the West Indies papers at the University of Bristol’s Special Collections department should, at some stage, help to fill in the gaps surrounding Macintosh’s time in the Caribbean.

Fraser, Leon. “English opinion of the American constitution and government (1783–1798).” Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, 1915.

Rothschild, Emma. The inner life of empires: an eighteenth-century history. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011.