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Overview of Primary Materials

More than 80,000 manuscript pages make up the Harvard Peirce Papers, a collection which includes the vast majority of publishable materials in the Peirce canon. Most of these writings were never published, nor even completed to a fair copy stage; thus, the "manuscripts" at Harvard are often only loose groupings of related pages, and--with few exceptions--no longer represent Peirce's original units of composition. Extensive searches in the National Archives and the archives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have yielded 8,000 pages related to Peirce's 30-year career in the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, including important letters correcting and even augmenting his scientific publications. Several thousand more pages survive at Southern Illinois University and in other collections across the country.

Selection Principles

If all of Peirce's writings were to be published, they would fill over 100 volumes. By electing not to publish multiple variant forms, unless significantly different, nor disconnected fragments, unreduced scientific data sheets, and mathematical and logical scratch pages, the final selection base becomes manageable. In practice, Peirce's materials from this selection base fall into three categories. Certain documents will be immediately identified for inclusion, because they represent Peirce's most acclaimed work, and others will definitely be excluded, because they are too preliminary or incomplete. The remaining items are sent to contributing editors, who are asked to recommend if a given item should be published, could be published but is of lesser importance, or should probably not be published. The recommendations of contributing editors provide the basis for the conclusion of the selection process. The final selection is made by the editors, in consultation with members of the Board of Advisors for difficult cases.

Editorial Principles

Our central goal is to provide critically edited and reliable texts of Peirce's work across the wide range of disciplines to which he contributed. Rather than reproducing a single surviving form of a document, we (as critical editors) identify the most mature coherent form closest to Peirce's composing hand, and, by incorporating identifiable authorial revisions and corrections from subsequent forms or representations, produce an eclectic text which aims to represent his most fully developed intention. Variants from subsequent published forms of the text judged to be editorial sophistications and compositorial errors are rejected; Peirce's own errors of content are corrected. This new text, when combined with an apparatus documenting the evolution of the various forms of the work, listing the historical variants, and identifying all of our editorial emendations (and their sources), constitutes the "critical edition" of Peirce's work.

We apply the editorial standards and guidelines of the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions, and have received the CSE's emblem, "An Approved Edition," for all our volumes. The CSE does not dictate a step-by-step procedure for critical editing, but rather identifies the essential elements (a textual essay, a textual apparatus, and a proofreading plan) and recommends the inclusion of a general introduction providing either an interpretive or historical frame for each volume. Beyond these elements, CSE stipulates that the editing theory and procedures be appropriate for the particular author. Implicit in the statement of standards put forward in "Aims and Services of the Committee on Scholarly Editions" (January 1992 printing) is a system of evaluation based on three expected outcomes: accuracy, consistency, and clarity of editorial discussion.

Our editorial procedures are based on the following general goals:

1. We are committed to producing a critical, unmodernized edition of Peirce's published and unpublished work. This edition is critical because our central goal is to produce a text that recovers Peirce's intentions as an author. It is unmodernized because, rather than update its accidentals for the benefit of the modern reader, our goal is to present a text that retains the author's preferences in punctuation, spelling, and capitalization.

2. Although we work from master sets of microfilm, microfiche, and photographic copies of Peirce's papers, we are committed to proofreading our transcriptions against the original documents to verify the accuracy of the transcribed readings, to ascertain the physical characteristics of paper and ink, and to resolve any problematic marks or revisions on the document. This step is part of a comprehensive plan for proofreading at crucial phases in the transcribing, editing, and publishing process.

3. We are committed to determining, as clearly as possible, the transmission of the text and its relationship to other writings in the corpus. We use standard collation schedules for horizontal comparisons of Peirce's printed articles with his own corrected and annotated offprints, with errata sheets, and with other copies of the original printing to discover variant readings. Texts transmitted vertically through two or more manuscript, typescript, or copy-set forms are also collated to identify variations. We compare parallel but distant versions of a text to recover the full family tree for a given document.

4. When more than one form of a text exists, we are committed to a consistent procedure for copy-text selection and emendation based on W. W. Greg's "The Rationale of Copy-Text" and modified for nineteenth- and twentieth-century editing situations by Fredson Bowers and G. Thomas Tanselle. (Linked is an updated listing of the copy-text essays we find most useful.) As Greg pointed out, the copy-text concept is not an abstract principle but rather a pragmatic rationale for editing when there exists no compelling evidence for making choices among variant readings from surviving texts. Peirce's tendency to continuously develop a document in many forms over many years has led us to modify copy-text selection in certain cases where "text" cannot be traditionally defined.

5. In terms of presentation, we are committed to a chronological edition published in a clear reading text. The chronological order of presentation allows us to fit the transmission of individual texts into the larger perspective sought by scholars since Murray Murphey's The Development of Peirce's Philosophy appeared in 1961; our volumes show the evolving nature of Peirce's work in each of his many disciplines, the breadth of materials that Peirce worked on (often simultaneously) in particular historical periods, and the emerging patterns of Peirce's intellectual development throughout his entire lifetime. The clear reading text is made possible by our construction of a textual apparatus keyed to the pages and lines of the clear text.

With these general goals in mind, we turn to a discussion of our specific editing policies. (A detailed list of production steps can be found through this link.) Most of our future volumes will each contain from 40 to 80 individual items, diverse in content, and ranging in form from personal journals, notebooks, and lecture notes to published reviews, published articles, and fair-copy drafts of manuscripts intended for publication. This broad range in form requires different editing techniques for the two major categories of materials--papers published by Peirce and his unpublished manuscripts.

Published Papers

A number of Peirce's publications (especially his reviews and his Coast Survey reports) were published more than once during his lifetime. Many of his philosophical publications were heavily revised in offprint for republication, although few ever reached print again. For many of these items, there are a number of surviving manuscript versions and pre-publication proofs. In cases that require a choice among possible copy-texts, a historical collation is used to identify all variants among the relevant forms and to determine the transmission of the text. Generally, a manuscript form (or the last draft if a sequence of manuscripts survive), because it represents Peirce's preference in accidentals (spelling and punctuation) and is the best authority for his word choice, is selected as copy-text.

Variants (in the copy-text and in later forms) judged to be the result of non-authorial intervention, such as compositorial errors, compositorial misreadings, or editorial changes in grammar or style, are rejected and noted in the historical collation; non-authorial substantive variants within this category appear in the volume's list of Rejected Substantives. Finally, any revisions by Peirce in the copy-text itself supersede earlier layers of the pre-copy-text; a full record of authorial alterations within the copy-text is made, and substantive alterations within this category appear in the published Alterations List. The complete list of alterations will be included in the electronic version of the Writings.

Peirce's publications appeared in many different journals and periodicals, each with its own house style. We emend title references to conform to our own edition style (Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed.); thus we italicize book titles, place chapter titles in quotation marks, and so on. Lengthy quotations set in the text of Peirce's original publications are offset and indented to conform with our own style for printing extracts.

All emendations to the texts are listed, and the sources for each cited in the emendations list. Any changes not listed there are described generically in the Essay on Editorial Method or in the item Headnote in the Apparatus. These include purely visual characteristics, such as the uppercase styling of opening words in a publication, or the scholastic font Peirce tended to use in his own typescripts. When no manuscript survives and the proof or published form must serve as copy-text, we emend printer's styling to conform to Peirce's own style of punctuation and spelling only if Peirce has demonstrated a clear preference in established practice over time. Peirce's preference for acceptable nineteenth-century spelling forms, as well as acceptable variant spellings of proper names, are allowed to stand as they appear. For the most part, Peirce shows no clear preferences in such matters as routine punctuation.


Peirce's manuscript copy-texts require a different editorial approach than do his publications. With published items where no prepublication forms of the text survive to serve as copy-text, we focus our effort on locating and eliminating editorial or printing corruptions. With holograph and typescript items, the focus is on identifying the sequence of Peirce's revisions--both across drafts and within single drafts that show evidence of one or more layers of revision. In general, the search for copy-text follows the same rationale used for published items: a mature manuscript form in Peirce's hand represents the best authority. Where more than one manuscript draft survives, collation will generally lead us to a fairly simple editing decision. Sometimes, a mature manuscript is followed by a typescript (or an amanuensis draft) prepared under Peirce's supervision, which contains his holograph corrections and revisions, but varies significantly in both substantives and accidentals from the holograph version. If the two versions are collatable word-for-word, we accept the authority of the manuscript (copy-text) and emend it with those substantive revisions (and corrections to accidentals) that can be attributed to Peirce with a fair degree of confidence. If the typescript is so thoroughly rewritten (which usually indicates a missing intervening draft) that word-by-word collation is not possible, we conclude that Peirce rewrote the document, and use the typescript as copy-text. The surviving earlier stage will be designated a pre-copy-text form and important variant readings will be reproduced or described in editors' notes.

In fact, situations involving widely diverging forms (that derive from single original drafts) represent the most common copy-text dilemma found in the unpublished materials. Successive manuscript versions may repeat the title or have the same or a similar opening sentence, but will often diverge into a related but new line of inquiry or method of argument. Paragraph or outline collation will usually yield a chrono-logical order, but we are left with two or more discrete documents, generally parallel in content but distinct in presentation and development. When parallel versions are equally significant for documenting Peirce's evolving ideas or scientific findings, we may publish them as discrete items. Each serves as its own copy-text, and will not be emended from subsequent parallel forms; we may refer to other parallel versions for annotation, but not for textual authority. However, as stated above, our decision to publish an electronic edition has reduced the need to publish parallel versions in the print edition.


Through W4, our transcriptions consisted of Peirce's final revised text, and contained no record of the initial readings or layers of revision beneath Peirce's final alterations. Thus words marked for transposition were automatically transposed, words careted were inserted, but words and punctuation Peirce had deleted were not transcribed. With the recommendation of NEH consultants, and with our present computer capabilities, we now make literal transcriptions of Peirce's text; that is, we show layer by layer what appears in the original document.

We archive the full record of Peirce's pre-copy-text alterations, but only those alterations that manifest a "critically significant" change of intention in the process of composition will appear in each volume's apparatus (however, the complete record of alterations will be included in the electronic edition). To decide whether a correction is critically significant, the following maxim, inspired by Peirce's own pragmatic maxim, is applied: consider whether the change of intention possibly manifested in the alteration produces an effect which might conceivably modify a reader's perception or understanding of the altered passage; if there is any such conceivable effect, then the alteration is critically significant. Given this selective process, there are some manuscripts for which we do not publish an alterations list, even though they do contain alterations recorded in our master files.

After examining different linear methods based on special symbols for insertions, deletions, transpositions, and the like, we settled on a modified version of the method created by Fredson Bowers (Studies in Bibliography 29 [1976]: 212-264). In W5, we embedded the entire record of alteration within the transcription in a close approximation of the Bowers method. In subsequent volumes, the embedded alterations have been replaced with hypertext links. Peirce's pre-copy-text layers of superseded text are tagged into the copy-text at the exact points where Peirce canceled or revised them; this alteration record can be displayed in a more-or-less genetic text format, or represented by place-holding "tags." Emendations and regularizations are marked on a hard-copy printout as before, but they are imposed into the electronic copy-text file through the same hypertextual process of tagging. In the same way, textual notes, content annotations, and chapter headnotes can be tagged into the edited transcription.

The Print Edition

Some or all of the hypertext tags described above can be suppressed (hidden) for ease of proofreading; all hypertext-linked text as well as the tags themselves are suppressed when the document is laid out for print publication. The suppressed apparatus sections and annotations actually remain a part of the copy-text document--in terms of production, this is the most important technological step forward to date. These scholarly components can be assembled in the distinct sections required of a critical edition, keyed to camera copy of the edited texts, and prepared in turn as backmatter camera copy.

The addition in 1997 of a technical editor and the subsequent transition into a hypertext editing environment have made it possible to deliver camera-ready copy directly to Indiana University Press. In the past, the entire text of each volume had to be sent to a third-party compositor and revised at considerable cost before presswork began. The 1998 publication of the second volume of the Essential Peirce, a non-critical edition, provided the prototype experience for in-house camera-ready production; the procedures established in that work are already being used to save time and money in the preparation of new volumes of the critical edition.


Contact the Peirce Edition
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File last changed 2011-06-15