Birth and family background
His father, Lewis Way (1772–1840), was the second son of Benjamin Way of Denham, and elder brother of Sir Gregory Holman Bromley Way. Lewis Way graduated M.A. in 1796 from Merton College, Oxford, and in 1797 was called to the bar by the Society of the Inner Temple. He afterwards entered the church and devoted to religious works part of a large legacy left him by a stranger, named John Way. He founded the Marbœuf Chapel (English Protestant) in Paris, which was completed by Albert. He was active in schemes for the conversion of the Jews, but is said to have been taken advantage of by supposed converts who lodged in his house and absconded with his valuables, hence Thomas Macaulay's lines:
Each, says the proverb, has his taste. 'Tis true
Marsh loves a controversy, Coates a play,The Jew the silver spoons of Lewis Way.
Bennet a felon, Lewis Way a Jew,
Albert Way was educated at home and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he encouraged his contemporary, Charles Darwin, in insect collecting. He graduated BA in 1829, and M.A. in 1834. In early life he travelled in Europe and the Holy Land with his father. Following his father's death in 1840, he was able to live off his private income.
In 1839 he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London; and he served as the Society's Director from 1842 until 1846, when, having made his home at Wonham Manor, Betchworth, Surrey, he could no longer easily attend meetings.
In 1843 he became joint honorary secretary, with Charles Roach Smith, of the British Archaeological Association, newly founded by Smith and Thomas Wright. However, he appears to have had some differences of opinion with Smith (who regarded him as excessively cautious) and in 1845 became the principal founder of the rival Archaeological Institute (afterwards the Royal Archaeological Institute). He was one of the honorary secretaries to the Institute, and organised many of its meetings and exhibitions in different parts of the country. He had to reduce his involvement after 1863 for health reasons, but he continued to assist with the Institute's Journal until 1868.
Way was a skilful draughtsman and an authoritative antiquary, who contributed much to the publications of the Society of Antiquaries and other societies. In a paper published in Archaeologia in 1844, he coined the term "palimpsest brass". He compiled the first catalogue of the Society's collections of pictures, coins and other miscellaneous objects. His principal publication was Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum, an edition of the renowned 15th-century English-Latin dictionary Promptorium parvulorum. On behalf of the Camden Society, he published the work in three volumes, the first of which saw print in 1843. The third and final volume came in 1865.
Way died at Cannes on 22 March 1874.
Way married his cousin Emmeline Stanley, daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley, on 30 April 1844. The couple had one daughter, Mary Alithea, born in 1850.
Way's widow presented to the Society of Antiquaries a hundred and fifty volumes of dictionaries and glossaries from his library, and two volumes of his drawings of prehistoric and other remains. She also presented his collection of several thousand impressions of medieval seals, which became the basis of the largest classified collection of British seal impressions.
- Brown, Robert (2009) . "Way, Lewis (1772–1840)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28905. (subscription required)
- "Way, Albert (WQQQ824A)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Way, A., A Catalogue of Antiquities, Coins, Pictures and Miscellaneous Curiosities in the Society’s Possession, London, 1847.
- Nurse, Bernard. "Essay: Collecting for Britain" (PDF). Making History: 300 years of antiquaries in Britain. Society of Antiquaries of London. Retrieved 12 November 2010.
- Wroth, Warwick William (1899). "Way, Albert". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 60. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Nurse, Bernard (2004). "Way, Albert (1805–1874)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28903. (subscription required)