Last summer I was fortunate enough to have two undergraduate students (Rhys Gazeres de Baradieux and Sam Thatcher) working with me in transcribing some of Macintosh’s letters sent from the Caribbean in the 1770s. Rhys and Sam were interviewed by another student, Matthew Phillips, who has since then produced a great video (above), highlighting the experience of undertaking a research placement in the department. I am grateful to Rhys and Sam for their hard work, which was instrumental in supporting a book chapter I wrote last autumn, and to Matthew for producing the video.
William Macintosh was an inveterate keeper of bills, invoices, and receipts. These ephemeral items are present in great abundance in his archive, but it is often difficult to determine their significance and evidential value given their overwhelming number—it is tricky, in that sense, to see the wood for the trees. On one level, these items offer an interesting insight into what Macintosh (and his family) consumed—food, fabric, books, stationery, furniture, wine, jewellery, medicine, etc.—and how much was spent. More prosaically, however, they are also often helpful in placing Macintosh in time and space (given how peripatetic he was, it is useful to know for sure where he was at a particular time).
As I was photographing these items today (they number in the hundreds) one bill stood out: a 1770 invoice from the London bookseller and publisher, William Nicoll, for what appears to be six calf-bound copies of the pamphlet Audi Alteram Partem (1770). As I have written before, there is reason to believe Macintosh was one of the anonymous authors of that work. While this bill is clearly not proof of authorship, it is circumstantially suggestive and at the very least demonstrates that Macintosh owned a copy (well, several copies) of the pamphlet. Those six pamphlets, purchased then for £1 4s., would be worth about $4,500 today (if current prices are a guide).
I’m back in Avignon this week: my third visit in the space of 12 months and one focused this time on filling in the gaps in my photographic record of Macintosh’s archival material. When I first visited Avignon in 2012, I was fairly targeted and selective in what I chose to transcribe and photograph, reflecting a narrower vision of the project. As the project has grown, so has the range of material in the archive that might be considered relevant. My task this week, then, is to get as near a complete photographic record of Macintosh’s archive as I can, to limit the need for return visits (as much as I enjoy them, they cost money and necessitate complicated childcare arrangements).
Although I am primarily photographing, rather than reading, material this week, one item jumped out at me: a set of instructions Macintosh issued in the 1770s, commissioning certain items of furniture (“Sea necessaries on an Eastern Voyage” as they are described). The document sets out Macintosh’s requirements for, among other things, a “Sea and East India Desk & Book Case” (mahogany exterior, red cedar interior). More interesting, perhaps, is his description (and drawing) of his wished-for bed. He asked for “A Bed, upon a Commodious Construction, with six drawers underneath on each side”. “4 of the drawers”, Macintosh went on, “[were] to contain Linens…the other two to Contain Liquor in handsome Square Bottles & decanters”. The drawers on the other side of the bed were “for the Bidet [à] serin[gu]e, and Chamber Pot”. With a setup like that, who’d ever want to get out of bed?
I took more than 500 photographs today, getting through about sixty percent of one of the six main bundles of Macintosh’s archive. The scale and diversity of the collection is somewhat bewildering, but it is full of interesting surprises. Onward, ever onward…