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 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

Access is open, however an appointment may be required. Please email Archives and Special Collections for advice:

Acquisition Information

From the Library of Sir William Hamilton, which was purchased for £2000 raised by private subscribers and presented to Glasgow University Library in 1878

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents. Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, please email:

Appraisal Information

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

Custodial History

Formerly accessioned as 738-878


Purchase : E Hall : 1968 : ACCN 4872

Related Material

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