Back to the books

Evidence of our transactions in the East Indies
William Macintosh’s copy of “Evidence of our transactions in the East Indies” (1782).

This summer I was contacted by staff at the Bibliothèque Ceccano in Avignon to let me know that they had recently begun a new project to research the history of their collections and asking if I would be able to share my inventory of William Macintosh’s private library so that they might be able to update their own catalogue with additional provenance information.

I was, of course, delighted to know that my inventory could have a practical benefit beyond its value to me as a research tool and was even more pleased when the member of staff charged with undertaking the project—Monsieur Guilhem de Corbier—was able to identify a couple of additional titles owned by Macintosh that I had not discovered during my previous investigations.

Among the books that Monsieur de Corbier has added to my inventory are Mr Parker’s 1782 Evidence of our transactions in the East Indies (a text which highlighted the cruelty and self-interest of the British in India, and chimed with Macintosh’s philosophy in this regard) and Edward Baker’s 1785 Grammar of the English tongue for the Italians. In both cases, these books have ownership inscriptions indicating where and when Macintosh bought them; the latter is one of several texts on Italian topics that Macintosh bought in Rome in December 1790. These books are, at present, the only evidence I have that Macintosh visited Italy. While I hope further evidence of his visit might yet come to light, it is interesting to speculate on why he might have visited: was it part of a rather late-in-life Grand Tour or was he brought there by commercial interests?

I have, today, been able to incorporate Monsieur de Corbier’s additions into a version of the inventory that will be published next summer as a bibliographical note in The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society. In the longer term, knowing what Macintosh owned (and might have read) is helpful in understanding the development of his political philosophy and the various ideas that might have influenced (or challenged) it.

Leave a Reply