Manuscripts from the personal library of Sir William Hamilton, 1788-1856, metaphysician

Scope and Content

There are 147 manuscripts of a miscellaneous nature. These include the lecture notes of William Hamilton and manuscripts in German, Italian and Latin.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Hamilton was born in Scotland in 1788 . He was educated in Glasgow, Scotland, and at Balliol College, Oxford where he was a friend of J G Lockhart, the biographer of Walter Scott. He gained his MA in 1814  and established his claim to baronetcy in 1816 . After touring Germany in 1817  and 1820 , he was elected professor of civil history at the University of Edinburgh in 1821 . Articles in the Edinburgh Review made his reputation as a philosopher between 1829-1836  and he was elected to the chair of logic and metaphysics at Edinburgh in 1836 . He made a great impression in his lecturers, attacking the 'non-intrusion' principle in ecclesiastical controversy in 1843 . He was partly paralysed in 1844  but still managed to edit the works of Reid although Mansell completed these in 1846 . Hamilton's doctrine of the quantification of the predicate was assailed by De Morgan, and that of the unknowability of the infinite by Calderwood. He contributed to psychology and logic theories of the association of ideas, of unconscious mental modifications, and the inverse relation of perception and sensation. He died in 1856 .

Source: Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome (Smith Elder & Co: London, 1903)


The arrangement of this material reflects the original order in which it was received

Access Information


Acquisition Information

Purchased for 2000 raised by private subscribers and presented to Glasgow University Library : 1878 : ACCN 0738

Other Finding Aids

Item level descriptions are available via the department's online manuscripts catalogue available at

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Archivist's Note

Compiled by David Powell, Hub Project Archivist, 7 March 2002

No alterations made to date

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Head of Special Collections

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use & condition of documents

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 247 procedures

Custodial History

Held in the Library of Sir William Hamilton

Formerly accessioned as 738-878


None expected

Related Material

Around 8000 volumes from the library of Sir William Hamilton can be found on the Glasgow University library catalogue at


John Durkan, Stephen Rawles and Nigel Thorp, George Buchanan, 1506-1582: Renaissance scholar and friend of Glasgow University Library: a quatercentenary exhibition, Glasgow University Library, 17 May-7 August 1982: catalogue (Glasgow, 1982)