Commodities and afterlives

Whilst my interest in Macintosh’s Travels centres primarily on its contemporary significance and reading, the status of the book as a commodity points to no-less-interesting questions to do with its afterlife (that is to say, with what happened to the book—and to Macintosh’s ideas—when they had lost their contemporary currency). That a market for Travels continued to exist after Macintosh’s death is evidenced not only by its current status as a rare and collectable book, but by its circulation in the nineteenth century.

Advertisement in The Publishers' Circular (1850).

Advertisement in The Publishers’ Circular (1850).

A classified advertisement placed in the “Books Wanted to Purchase” section of The Publishers’ Circular (1 June 1850) by the London firm Taylor, Walton, and Maberly indicates, for example, that nearly three-quarters of a century after the original publication of Travels, there was a market for it (albeit a market that was somewhat uncertain with regard to the book’s bibliographical specifics). Given that Taylor, Walton, and Maberly was official bookseller and publisher to University College, London, it is possible that the firm had been commissioned in its search for Travels by an academic member of staff at the college. Whatever motivation lay behind the search for Travels in this case, it is yet another suggestive fragment of evidence which helps to illuminate something of the book’s afterlife.

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