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The papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, almost all conserved at the Hougthon Library at the Harvard University, are an extraordinary intellectual monument. Almost unique in their breadth and complexity, they broach an enormous range of different disciplines – from mathematics and logic to geology, semiotics and the history of science. This renders the task of an exhaustive printed edition virtually impossible to achieve. 

This situation is, in turn, not accidental, but is tightly related to Peirce’s very peculiar style of working. Convinced as he was that thought is done in the making, and that the creativity of our minds is only deployed when the latter is endowed “with pencil and plenty of paper”, Peirce manipulated his own papers as a sort of laboratory of his philosophical and scientific ideas. The reductions of this extraordinary laboratory to printed versions (which is, of course, ineludible) inevitably entails a loss of philosophical complexity. 

The project aims at making up for this loss. To this point a specific dimension of the project’s work is also related, which concerns in particular the philosophical and interpertive importance of the non-textual and figurative material that is contained in Peirce’s Nachlass. Peirce was famously convinced of the pivotal role of images (and their experimental manipulation) for the production of intellectual content. Relying on this conviction, he put forth a diagrammatic logical calculus that has gained worldwide recognition as the most powerful non-verbal formalization of thought ever proposed. Over and above this, however, his papers literally bristle with countless drawings of all kinds (from scientific illustrations to caricatures and doodles) which strongly call for systematic examination.


Franz Engel, research associate

Tullio Viola, research associate

Moritz Queisner, research associate

Frederik Wellmann, student assistant