Joining the dots

Order of requisition for Macintosh's effects, dated the 23rd of Nivose in the 3rd year of the French Republican calendar (12 January 1795). Archives départementales de Vaucluse 1 L 452.

Order of requisition for Macintosh’s effects, dated the 23rd of Nivose in the 3rd year of the French Republican calendar (12 January 1795). Archives départementales de Vaucluse 1 L 452.

I spent most of a blisteringly hot day yesterday escaping the record-breaking temperatures by digging in the Vaucluse departmental archives. I have now had the opportunity of seeing the full inventory of Macintosh’s library, which shows the collection to be larger than I had anticipated (in addition to books, Macintosh also had a substantial number of pamphlets, maps, and atlases). The archives also contain an extensive inventory (running to 20 pages) of the household furniture that was seized by the revolutionary authorities alongside Macintosh’s books. There are also some legal papers relating to a debt dispute between Macintosh and a cloth merchant.

Although there is much of interest in this new material, I am focusing for the moment on trying to connect the inventory of seized books to those in the municipal library. In most cases this requires a bit of guesswork. For example, item 11 in the inventory of seized books is described as “procés De hastings” (Hasting’s trial, roughly translated). Using the advanced search function of the library’s catalogue it is then possible to look for all books with the word “Hastings” in the title that date from before 1795. In this instance, the catalogue offers up five results, all of which relate to Warren Hastings. Only one title, however, Articles of charge of high crimes and misdemeanors, against Warren Hastings, Esq., relates specifically to the trial. Physical inspection of the copy reveals an ownership inscription on page 5—”W MacIntosh received in december 1786″—confirming that this is, indeed, the right title and copy.

Not all titles are so easily identifiable, partly for reasons of legibility and partly because the terms used in the French-language description of the book don’t always provide helpful keywords to guide a search of the catalogue. Nevertheless, the ball is now rolling and I am gradually accumulating the necessary data for my census in an Excel spreadsheet. 16 titles identified, 54 to go!

A census of Macintosh's library, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet.

A census of Macintosh’s library, tracked in an Excel spreadsheet.

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