(Back) in at the deep end

Macintosh's copy of "Dizionario delle lingue Italiana" (1787), showing that he purchased it in Rome in December 1790.

Macintosh’s copy of “Dizionario delle lingue Italiana” (1787), showing that he purchased it in Rome in December 1790.

It is thrilling, if not a little overwhelming, to be back in Avignon and to be fully immersed in the archives.

My main task this week is to put together a working catalogue of Macintosh’s library. Although all the books are (I think) housed in Avignon’s municipal library, the Médiathèque Ceccano, there is no consolidated listing of them here. What there is (elsewhere, at the Archives départementales de Vaucluse) is a listing of the books as they were seized by the revolutionary authorities in 1793. Because the archives are closed today, I have been working from a facsimile (published in the book Des Ecossais a Avignon [1993]) of the inventory that includes only the first page (11 titles out of a total of 70). Because the list is written in French, and presents an inventory of largely English-language titles, it requires a good deal of detective work with the catalogue to match the inventory with the books housed here. Each title has then to be ordered up separately so that I can check the edition details and provenance information. It’s a rather fiddly and time-consuming task that I suspect will take longer than a week to complete.

Quite by chance I was given one of the books as a microfilm, rather than a hard copy. It turned out that the microfilm contained not only the book in question, but also a 387-page manuscript letter book, covering Macintosh’s outgoing correspondence between 1763 and 1772. This was complete new to me and something I might otherwise have missed; even with the manuscript number I can’t seem to find it listed in the catalogue. This discovery means, I think, that a return visit to Avignon is inevitable (which is, perhaps, no bad thing).

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