Macintosh and George Cuvier

Georges Cuvier (1769–1832)

Georges Cuvier (1769–1832).

For historians of science, the French naturalist George Cuvier has an almost totemic significance: straddling the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries like a scientific Colossus of Rhodes. It was particularly interesting, therefore, to discover on Monday that Cuvier owned a copy of Macintosh’s Travels (in its second Paris edition, 1788). It seems rather unlikely that Cuvier purchased his copy at the time of its publication—he was then nineteen, and working as a private tutor in Normandy. A more intriguing possibility is that he acquired the book at some point after his arrival in Paris in 1796, a circumstance which would indicate that Macintosh’s book retained value and currency more than a decade after its initial French publication. All of this will remain speculation, of course, until I can examine Cuvier’s copy of Travels which is housed at the Bibliothèque Centrale du Muséum nation d’Histoire in Paris.

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