Stokes Papers

Scope and Content

Working papers, largely undated, of Whitley Stokes on philology, mainly comprising manuscript notes and drafts, in the form of notebooks and loose notes, for his work and publications on language and phonetics.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Dublin, 1803; eldest son of William Stokes, MD, Regius Professor of Physic, Dublin, by his wife Mary Black; entered and left St Columba's College at Rathfarnham, County Dublin, 1845; his early sources included the 'Primer of the Irish Language' of Denis Coffey (Irish teacher at St Columba's), John O'Donovan's 'Grammar of the Irish Language' (published in 1845 at the expense of St Columba's), and Edward O'Reilly's Irish dictionary; entered Trinity College Dublin, 1847; graduated BA, 1851; became acquainted with the Irish antiquary George Petrie, the Irish scholar and topographer John O'Donovan, and the Irish scholar Eugene O'Curry, and laid a broad foundation for Irish learning; chose to devote himself to the study of the words and forms of the Irish language, regarding Irish literature as chiefly interesting in furnishing material for comparative philology; became friends with Rudolf Thomas Siegfried, a philologist from Tübingen, first assistant librarian of Trinity College (later Professor of Sanskrit and comparative philology); influenced by the publication of John Caspar Zeuss's 'Grammatica Celtica' (1853), which opened a vast field of philological research pursued by Stokes until his death; took lessons in Irish from John O'Donovan, but never acquired its pronunciation; became a student of the Inner Temple, 1851; called to the bar, 1855; pupil of A Cayley, H M Cairns, and T Chitty; practised as an equity draftsman and conveyancer; received the gold medal of the Royal Irish Academy for 'A Mediæval Tract on Latin Declension' (1860); went to Madras, 1862; later went to Calcutta; continued his Irish studies in India; reporter to the High Court, Madras; Acting Administrator-General, 1863-1864; Secretary to the Governor-General's Legislative Council; Secretary to the Government of India in the Legislative Department, 1865-1877; Companion of the Order of the Star of India, 1877; Law Member of the Council of Governor-General, 1877-1882; appointed President of the Indian Law Commission, 1879; drafted many Indian Consolidation Acts, the bulk of the codes of civil and criminal procedure, and other Acts; Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire, 1879; framed a scheme for collecting and cataloguing Sanskrit MSS in India; left India, 1882; for the rest of his life, resided chiefly in Kensington; an original fellow of the British Academy, 1902; foreign associate of the Institute of France; Honorary Fellow of Jesus College Oxford; Honorary DCL, Oxford; Honorary LLD Dublin and Edinburgh; honorary member, German Oriental Society; died in Kensington, 1909. Publications (philological) include: 'Irish Glosses from a MS in Trinity College, Dublin', 'Transactions of the Philological Society of London' (1859); 'A Mediæval Tract on Latin Declension, with Examples explained in Latin and the Lorica of Gildas, with the Gloss thereon and Glosses from the Book of Armagh' (Irish Archæological and Celtic Society, Dublin, 1860); 'Goidelica. Old and early-middle-Irish glosses, prose and verse' (Calcutta, 1866; 2nd edition London, 1872); edited 'Fis Adamnain' (Simla, 1870); edited 'Felire Oengusso Celi De. The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee' (Royal Irish Academy, 1871; Henry Bradshaw Society, 1905); edited 'Three Middle-Irish Homilies on the lives of Saints Patrick, Brigit and Columba' (Calcutta, 1877); edited 'Togail Troi' (Calcutta, 1882); 'Celtic Declension', 'Transactions of the Philological Society' (1885-1886); edited 'The Tripartite Life of St Patrick' (2 volumes, Rolls Series, 1887); 'Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore', 'Anecdota Oxoniensia' (Oxford,1890); with Professor Bezzenberger, 'Urkeltischer Sprachschatz' (1894); with Marianus Gorman, 'Felire hui Gormain. The Martyrology of Gorman' (Henry Bradshaw Society, 1895); with John Strachan, 'Thesaurus Palæohibernicus. A collection of Old-Irish glosses, scholia, prose and verse' (3 volumes, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1901-1910); with Professor Ernst Windisch, edited a series of 'Irische Texte' (Leipzig, 1884-1909) including 'In Cath Catharda. The Civil War of the Romans. An Irish version of Lucan's Pharsalia', published posthumously by Windisch (1909); many smaller collections of Irish, Welsh and Breton glosses; papers on grammatical subjects; other editions and translations of Irish literature; edited the Cornish works 'Gwreansan Bys' (1864), 'Beumans Meriasek. The Life of Saint Meriasek, Bishop and Confessor' (London, 1872), and 'Middle-Breton Hours' (Calcutta, 1876). Publications (legal) include: 'A Treatise on the Liens of Legal Practitioners' (London, 1860); 'Powers of Attorney' (London, 1861); edited 'Hindu Law Books' (Madras, 1865); 'The Indian Succession Act' (Calcutta, 1865); 'The Indian Companies' Act' (1866); 'The older Statutes in force in India' (1874); edited 'The Anglo-Indian Codes' (2 volumes, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1887-1888), with supplements (1889-1891). Bibliography by Professor R I Best in 'Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie', viii, pp 351-406 (1911).

Access Information


This collection has not been catalogued and there is only a basic list. Please contact Special Collections for further information.

Acquisition Information

The papers were probably presented to University College London when Stokes's daughters presented his books, in 1910. A further box was found in the stores in 2019 and added to the collection.

Other Finding Aids

Basic box list on Calm. The collection is uncatalogued.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Related Material

University College London Special Collections also holds a letter to Whitley Stokes from Annie Stokes, 1882 (Ref: MS MISC 3S); a letter from Stokes to Moses Gaster, 1892 (Ref: GASTER); R I Best, 'Whitley Stokes: a Memorial Discourse' (Dublin University Press Ltd, Trinity College, 1951) (Ref: COLLEGE COLLECTION DS87.6 BES). University College London Library holds the Whitley Stokes Collection on philology and folklore, presented by his daughters in 1910 and comprising c3,500 volumes and pamphlets which formed Stokes's library, including important martyrologies, lives of saints, and other works of early Irish religious literature. The collection relates largely to Celtic subjects, but also to the study of other languages and cultures, including classical, Scandinavian and Germanic languages, and works relating to Dante. Many works are presentation copies and contain valuable notes and additions and, in c230 volumes, letters dating from 1856 onwards and totalling c570 items from c140 correspondents, almost exclusively fellow scholars writing to Stokes on scholarly subjects in English, German, French and Italian, particularly Kuno Meyer (over 50 items), John Strachan (over 40), Wilhelm Oscar Ernst Windisch (nearly 30), and Graziadio Ascoli (over 30). The collection also includes a virtually complete set of Stokes' own works on philology and folklore, numbering c300 volumes, some of them rare. A list of the items which include letters, describing the letters as well as the printed volumes, and a typescript introduction is available. The list is arranged by call mark, but is supplemented by chronological, alphabetical and title indexes. Papers on the presentation of the Whitley Stokes Library, 1910, are held among the University College London Library records (Ref: UCLCA/DEP).

British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds Stokes's letters to Lord Ripon, 1880-1882 (Ref: Add MS 43160). Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, holds philological papers, c1860 (Ref: Add 705-06); letters to Sir George Stokes, c1871-1893 (Ref: Add 7342, 7656). Trinity College Dublin holds correspondence, 1851-1893.