For the past week I have been in New York City with approximately 50 of our second-year human geography students who have been engaged in a range of individual research projects across the city. Having successfully installed my group in the archives at the New York Public Library, I paid a visit to the wonderful New York Society Library on East 79th Street. In addition to being the oldest library in New York (it was established in 1754) it also functioned as the de facto Library of Congress during the period in the late eighteenth century when Congress met in New York. A number of the eighteenth-century politicians who read or corresponded with Macintosh were members of the library (including George Washington and Aaron Burr).
The library has a copy of one of the Dublin editions of Macintosh’s book, which I consulted in the hope that it might contain some interesting marginal annotations or revealing details of provenance (sadly, neither proved to be the case). The book has been in the library since at least 1813 (it is listed in A catalogue of the books belonging to the New-York Society Library published in that year). An entry for Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa does appear in the 1793 catalogue but the author is (wrongly, perhaps) identified as M’Donald. In any event, the book does not appear in the library’s first circulation ledger, covering the period 1789 to 1792.
Interesting marginalia was, however, much in evidence at the library’s excellent Readers Make Their Mark exhibition. The reading habits of a number of the library’s former members, including the intriguing Chinese-American artist Mai-mai Sze, were wonderfully showcased.