Monthly Archives: June 2017

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.