Getting to know Sir Robert Palk

In following the archival trail of William Macintosh, I have called in a number of favours over the years, particularly from colleagues who have been visiting libraries and archives abroad that might contain Macintosh-related snippets. In 2014, Natalie Cox (then a PhD student at the University of Warwick) was kind enough to check the provenance of two copies of Travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa held by the Huntington Library in California. Both books contained interesting bookplates, but one of them (at that point) resisted identification. I had put this puzzle mentally to one side so effectively that I entirely forgot about it. So much so, in fact, that this month I asked by own PhD student, Ed Armston-Sheret, who is currently at the Huntington to check the same copies of Travels for their provenance. Happily, my embarrassment at having Ed check what Natalie has already investigated was lessened by the fact that it prompted me to check again for information about the mysterious bookplate (below).

The previously unidentified bookplate. The Huntington Library, call number 355653.

The previously unidentified bookplate. The Huntington Library, call number 355653.

Thanks to research recently published in the Electronic British Library Journal by Dennis E. Rhodes, it is now evident that this bookplate came from the library of Sir Robert Palk (1717–1798).

Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet (1717–1798).

Sir Robert Palk, 1st Baronet (1717–1798).

Palk made his fortune under the auspices of the East India Company, eventually being appointed Governor of Madras. On his return to England, Palk invested his fortune in the purchase and enlargement of Haldon House in Devon. At the time of the publication of Travels in 1782, Palk was Member of Parliament for Ashburton. Although politically a Tory, Palk was also opposed to attempts by the coalition government to regulate the East India Company. In 1783, for example, he voted against Charles Fox’s East India Bill.

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