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Arthur Oncken Lovejoy papers

Identifier: MS-0038

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  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The papers of Arthur O. Lovejoy span the years 1872 to 1963 and include correspondence, manuscript notes for lectures, notebooks, diaries, newspaper clippings, reports, speeches, photographs, drafts, typescripts, galley proofs, and books owned and annotated by Lovejoy.

The largest part of the collection filed in Boxes 1 to 59 contains Lovejoy's notes on philosophers including Emerson, Locke, Nietzche, and Santayana and his classroom lectures on the many topics of Philosophy including Realism, Vitalism, Evolution, and Meaning. Correspondence, filed in Boxes 72 to 84 forms another large segment of the collection. Some biographical material and family photographs are filed in Boxes 67-69 as well as Lovejoy's reports and papers dealing with academic freedom and post-World War II problems.


  • Creation: 1872-1963
  • Creation: 1872 - 1963


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

Arthur Oncken Lovejoy was born in Berlin, October 10, 1873, the son of Wallace William Lovejoy and Sara Oncken Lovejoy. Wallace was an American medical student from Boston studying in Germany, and Sara was German. The family returned to Boston in 1875, but Sara Lovejoy died shortly thereafter. Wallace Lovejoy married Emmeline Dutton in 1881 after leaving the practice of medicine to assume a ministry in the Episcopal church.

Arthur Lovejoy received his early education in schools in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Following his graduation from the Germantown, Pennsylvania Academy in 1891, the family moved to Oakland, California. Lovejoy entered the University of California at Berkeley in 1891, his course of study emphasizing the humanities and languages. Under the influence of the philosopher George Holmes Howison, Lovejoy's prime interest changed from religion to philosophy. He graduated in 1895 and entered Harvard where he studied under Josiah Royce and William James. He received the M.A. in 1897 and studied at the Sorbonne, 1898-1899.

Lovejoy's career as a teacher of philosophy began at Stanford University in 1899. In 1901, he resigned in protest at the dismissal of the economist and sociologist, E. A. Ross, and he was afterwards a champion of academic freedom to university and college faculties. Lovejoy held teaching positions at Washington University (1901-1907), Columbia (1907-1908), and the University of Missouri (1908-1910) before coming to The Johns Hopkins University in 1910. He remained at Hopkins until his retirement in 1938.

During the early part of the century, Lovejoy published widely on a number of subjects: the history of religion, the history of philosophy, on pragmatism and realism, and on social and political questions. His concern for academic freedom led him in 1913 toward the establishment of an organization which culminated in the formation of the American Association of University Professors in 1915.

During World War I, he was active in the National Security League and the YMCA. After the war, Lovejoy turned his attention to scholarship, particularly in philosophy and the history of ideas. His 1933 William James Lectures at Harvard were published in 1936 as The Great Chain of Being. He retired from Hopkins in 1938 to devote himself to his research. He then became involved in the planning of The Journal of the History of Ideas which began publication in 1940. During World War II Lovejoy was active politically and socially, serving as administrator, editor and writer for the Historical Service Board of the American Historical Association and for the Universities Committee on Post-War International Problems. He was a member of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom with a view to countering communism. He served as a member of the University of Maryland Board of Regents from 1951-1955. He also continued his scholarly work. Gradually his health declined and his eyesight failed completely. Arthur O. Lovejoy never married. He died in Baltimore on December 30, 1962.


39.4 Cubic Feet (8 letter size document boxes, 2 letter half-size document boxes, 74 legal size document boxes, 5 legal half-size document boxes)

Language of Materials



Arthur Oncken Lovejoy (October 10, 1873 – December 30, 1962) was an American philosopher and intellectual historian, who founded the discipline known as the history of ideas with his book The Great Chain of Being (1936). The papers of Arthur O. Lovejoy span the years 1872 to 1963 and include correspondence, manuscript notes for lectures, notebooks, diaries, newspaper clippings, reports, speeches, photographs, drafts, typescripts, galley proofs, and books owned and annotated by Lovejoy.

Other Finding Aids

Note the presence of a Guide to the Lovejoy Correspondence, dating from 1974-1975, included in Box 85 as of May 2019.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Arthur Oncken Lovejoy were a bequest to the University and were received in 1963.


Lovejoy's published writings are described in: Wilson, Daniel J., Arthur O. Lovejoy: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1982.

Processing Information

Since 1963, when the papers were received by the University, the collection has been reviewed, indexed, and arranged at various times. In 1963, Marjorie Nicolson, an associate of Professor Lovejoy during 1923-26, examined the papers at the request of Hopkins professor, George Boas. She arranged some material into envelopes and noted the contents of each envelope on the outside, and that categorization has not been changed. Nicolson found that the three main subjects of the papers were Nature, Primitivism, and Romanticism, and that much of Lovejoy's research had formed the basis of his many published articles. Nicolson also observed that Lovejoy may have been planning a book or series of articles on "The Romantic Theory of Knowledge," since some material deals with that topic.

During 1974-1975, Daniel J. Wilson prepared a detailed index of the collection. He listed the subject or title of each item in the collection. A complete index to the large amount of correspondence was also prepared. In 1979, the papers were filed into different document boxes, but the original order that corresponds with Wilson's index was retained.

In 1993, a container list was prepared to correctly list the material and the box numbers. The papers are now arranged by series since the latest revision was intended to follow Wilson's useful and complete index. In a general sense, the papers are arranged in the following order: lecture notes, diaries and notebooks, writings, biographical material, photographs, and correspondence.

In 2005, an envelope of five French manuscripts, previously omitted from the container list, was found in the collection. A note on the envelope suggests Lovejoy purchased the humorous dialogues and poems in book stalls along the Seine. The manuscripts were placed in Box 66.

For an analysis of the collection, see Marjorie Nicolson's letter, October 1963, in the Provenance File.

Due to the legacy of different descriptions for this collection, and the migration of that information into and out of multiple systems, this collection was completely re-described in 2019. The arrangement was preserved, but the folder titles and scope and contents information was checked against the physical contents of the collection on a folder-by-folder basis. This version of the finding aid is the most up-to-date and complete listing available.

Liz Beckman revised the Biographical note, collection and folder level Scope and Contents notes, and some folder titles in this finding aid in August 2023 to bring them into compliance with Johns Hopkins guidelines for inclusive and conscientious description (2023). The previous version of the finding aid is available upon request.


Guide to Arthur Oncken Lovejoy papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA