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Charles S. Peirce Papers on Microfilm


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Adminstrative Information

Detailed Description

The Charles S. Peirce Papers: Manuscripts

The Charles S. Peirce Papers: Correspondence

Charles S. Peirce Papers on Microfilm, 1857-1914 | Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

By Nicholas L. Guardiano

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Collection Overview

Title: Charles S. Peirce Papers on Microfilm, 1857-1914Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

ID: 1/2/MSS 346

Primary Creator: Peirce, Charles S. (Charles Sanders) (1839-1914)

Extent: 1.0 Boxes

Arrangement: The reels are sequentially labeled 1-7, 7a, 8-32, and L1-L6, with the 'L' indicating the 6 reels of correspondence. Written on the box of each reel is the range of manuscript numbers that the film contains. While The Charles S. Peirce Papers total 1,664 manusripts (MS) and 729 correspondence items (L), the microfilm is not a complete reproduction of everything. A note is written on the boxes of those reels that are known to be missing items. For a detailed itemization of the missing items, see the attached digital document "Charles S. Peirce Missing Items," prepared by the SCRS staff (click on green arrow above next to title entry). The manusripts were arranged by Harvard in 1961-6 in an order that is roughly by subject, and, in 1967, Richard S. Robin published the Annotated Catalogue of the Papers of Charles S. Peirce (Worcester: University of Massachusetts Press), which is the primary resource for navigating the manuscripts. The Robin Catalogue is available online. It contains brief summaries of the content of the manuscripts, the length of each manuscript, indication of publications in which the manuscripts are reprinted, a subject index, and other useful information. In 1970, following the discovery of new manuscript materials that were not included in the original microfilm, a supplementary catalogue was published. It can be found on reel 31. I was also reprinted as a journal article in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 7, no. 1 (1971): 37-57, and a hardcopy is available with the microfilm. The supplemental materials are located on reels 31-2. Materials that belong to a manuscript that was already catalogued and microfilmed are identifed by the MS number of the original followed by the suffix 's'. Materials that presumably do not belong to any MS are identified by the prefix 'S' followed by a number.

Date Acquired: 00/00/2012

Subjects: Philosophy, American - 20th century

Languages: English


The microfilm is a reproduction of Peirce's original manuscripts that reside at Houghton Library, Harvard University. The mostly hand-written materials total over 100,000 pages on various subjects.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

There are 33 film reels containing Peirce's personal writings and 6 film reels containing correspondence. The items range over Peirce's lifetime (1839-1914), and they include essays, notebooks, lectures, book reviews, correspondence, and other compositions on pragmatism, metaphysics, logic, mathematics, semiotics, scientific methodology, astronomy, geodesy, and other subjects. The correspondence includes letters written by Peirce and letters written to Peirce; some of the correspondents are Louis Agassiz, Georg Cantor, Paul Carus, John Dewey, William James, Benjamin Peirce, Josiah Royce, and F. C. S. Schiller. While the multivolume editions, the Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce (1931-5 and 1958) and the Writings of Charles S. Peirce: A Chronological Edition (1982-), have made many of the manuscripts available in print form, the microfilm currently is the most substantial resource of Peirce's complete writings. For more details on the scope of the manuscripts, see Harvard Library's Hollis+ online entry on The Charles S. Peirce Papers.

Collection Historical Note

Peirce was a philosopher, scientist, logician, semiotician, mathematician, and a founder of pragmatism.

Biographical Note

Charles S. Peirce was born in 1839 in Cambridge, MA. He was raised within a rich intellectual environment. His father Benjamin Peirce was a distinguished professor of mathematics at Harvard University and intimately involved with the academic and professional scientific communities in the United States. Charles showed a penchant for logic and chemistry even as a young child, and when a teenager, he conducted some of his first readings in philosophy, in particular in the area of aesthetics by reading Friedrich Schiller's Aesthetic Letters. He attained his college degree from Harvard in 1859, and then a graduate degree in chemistry from Harvard's Lawrence Scientific School in 1862. At Harvard, Peirce met William James who would remain a close friend and interlocutor throughout his life. From the years 1859-1891 he pursued a career as a scientist with the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and in 1879-1884 he served as a professor of philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. In 1887, he moved into his country home, affectionately named "Arisbe," located in Milford, PA. There, where Peirce would reside the remainder of his life, he began to develop some of his most provactive and profound philosophical theories in metaphysics, phenomenology, cosmology, pyschology, and semiotics. Throughout his later years, he continued to write prolifically, deliver lectures, and publish original essays and book reviews on these and many other subjects. However, due to a series of misfortunes and a weakened reputation with some individuals in the academic and scientific communities, he struggled to regain regular employment and fell into financial ruin. The stress of this period also prevented him from ever completing several proposed long monographs on his system of philosophy. Nonetheless, he continued to write until his death and his manuscripts are filled with his many novel ideas, exhibiting his great polymathic abilities as one of the greatest intellectuals of history, deemed the "American Aristotle." Among some of his contributions is his theory of pragmaticism, his founding of modern semiotics, his logic of abduction, existential graphs, and his evolutionary cosmology. In 1914, he died of cancer, succeeded by his wife who donated his manuscripts to Harvard.

Subject/Index Terms

Philosophy, American - 20th century

Administrative Information

Repository: Southern Illinois University Special Collections Research Center

Access Restrictions: Unrestricted access.

Physical Access Note: Original papers held by Harvard University.

Acquisition Source: Imaging Services at Harvard Library

Acquisition Method: Purchase

Box and Folder Listing

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[Series 1: The Charles S. Peirce Papers: Manuscripts],
[Series 2: The Charles S. Peirce Papers: Correspondence],

Series 1: The Charles S. Peirce Papers: ManuscriptsAdd to your cart.
Box 1Add to your cart.
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Item 1: Supplementary CatalogueAdd to your cart.
Item 1: Reel 1: Manuscripts 1-93Add to your cart.
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