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17,000 pages digitised from 19th century philosopher Lady Welby’s personal library


The House Builders (Portraits of Sir W.E. & The Hon. Lady Welby-Gregory). Painting (1880) by Frank Bernard Dicksee

Digitising the library of 19th century philosopher Lady Victoria Welby

Today, on International Women’s Day, over 17,000 pages go online from 19th century philosopher Lady Welby-Gregory’s personal library, held at Senate House Library, University of London, as part of the British Online Archives.  

The team at Senate House Library have digitised 54 original monographs from Lady Welby’s Library by the likes of William James, Mary Everest Boole, Sir Henry Jones, and Henri Bergson on the subjects of philosophy, theology, and philology. The library of 1,500 books and 1,000 pamphlets contains items heavily annotated by Lady Welby, providing insight into the thoughts of a pioneering nineteenth century female intellectual.

Lady Victoria Welby-Gregory (1837-1912) was an English noblewoman and self-taught musician, artist, and philosopher of language. Welby-Gregory is most well-known for developing the theory of significs, which she defined in a 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article as “the science of meaning or the study of significance.” Significs was closely related to other theoretical trends of the time, such as semantics, semiotics, and semiology.  

The collection provides students and researchers with an overview of several key debates in 19th and early 20th century Western philosophy and making them available online through publishers at the British Online Archives, improves access as well as visibility of women’s history. 

“[E]very one of us is in one sense a born explorer: our only choice is what world we will explore, our only doubt whether our exploration will be worth the trouble.” Lady Victoria Welby-Gregory, Philosopher 

Explore the digitised collection for free using your Senate House Library login.

Images of Lady Welby