Ownership and readership?

I spent part of yesterday morning in the Dr Seng T Lee Centre for Manuscript and Book Studies at Senate House, consulting the useful collection of sale catalogue facsimiles in the multi-volume Sale catalogues of libraries of eminent persons (1973). In order to understand the circulation and likely influence of Macintosh’s book, it is necessary to reconstruct (as far as is possible) the book’s ownership and readership. 19th-century sales catalogues are a useful first step in determining who owned a copy of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa (although not, necessarily, who read it). Such catalogues are one means by which to select those individuals who warrant further attention.

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke (1729–1797), the enthusiastic antagonist of Warren Hastings. National Portrait Gallery, 655.

A far from systematic trawl of some of these catalogues indicates that owners of Travels included Edmund Burke, the principal antagonist of Warren Hastings (see page 21 of the Catalogue of the library of of the late Right Hon. Edmund Burke (1833)). Burke’s copy of Travels was purchased for 9 s. by one “Mr Bohn”—most likely one of the bookseller brothers Henry Bohn (1796–1884) and James Bohn (1803–1880).

George Hibbert (1757–1837)

George Hibbert (1757–1837).

The book collector, merchant, and slave owner George Hibbert (1757–1837) was another eminent figure who owned Macintosh’s book (see page 442 of A catalogue of the library of George Hibbert, Esq. of Portland Place (1829)). At the time of the publication of Travels, Hibbert had recently begun work in London at the Jamaica trading house of Hibbert, Purrier and Horton (a firm which he later headed). Hibbert subsequently assumed a central role in the pro-slavery Society of West India Planters and Merchants, and it is probable that his interest in Macintosh’s book related to that author’s experience as a Caribbean planter and merchant. Thus the list of potential readers grows longer.

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