A Literary Tour de France

Robert Darnton's website

In the late summer of 2014, Robert Darnton launched an open-access website collecting together primary materials (and well as Darnton’s own published work) relating to the French book trade between 1769 and 1789. Represented among this fantastic collection is Darnton’s long-standing interest in Jacques Pierre Brissot (who undertook the French translation of Macintosh’s Travels) and the Société typographique de Neuchâtel (STN) who distributed it (at least in part).

Brissot’s correspondence with the STN had previously been made available via the Voltaire Foundation’s website, but has usefully been brought together on Darnton’s site (and richly supplemented by additional materials). These letters show that Brissot first wrote to the STN over Macintosh’s book on 23 June 1784, identifying it as one of “deux ouvrages qu’on désirerait vendre à la feuille afin de n’avoir aucune difficulté”. Brissot’s letter wrongly transliterates the book’s title as Voyages en Amérique, en Afrique, en Asie (rather than Voyages en Europe, en Asie et en Afrique, as it would later appear). To whet the appetite of the STN, Brissot noted that Voyages was “entièrement neuf et non encore traduit”. In a later missive, dated 22 October 1784, Brissot referred to the book as Nouveaux Voyages de Mackintosh en Asie—an inconsistency which points to the fact that he had yet to settle on a fixed title for his translation.

Something of the complexity of identifying reference to Macintosh and his work across different linguistic context is exemplified in these letters. The Anglophone Macintosh is the Francophone Mackintosh; the Anglophone Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa is, variously, Voyages en Amérique…Voyages en Europe…, and Nouveaux Voyages de Mackintosh…. In any event, Robert Darnton and his research assistants are to be congratulated for putting together such an interesting and useful open-access resource.

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