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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 3359

Robert M. Pirsig papers


Papers of American writer and philosopher Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals.


  • Creation: circa 1880-2020
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1990


Language of Materials

In English, with a small amount of French, German, Spanish, and Swedish.

Condition Description

Glass plate negatives are fragile. Some material may need reboxing if called for from remote storage. Other specific conditions of the papers are unknown to library staff; the collection was delivered directly to remote storage.

Conditions Governing Access

The bulk of this collection is open for research; specific parts are restricted because they are unprocessed, fragile, or there are donor-imposed stipulations. See specific details in the description of the affected series, sub-series, or files.

Researchers should note that keyword searching will be useful in using this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


51 linear feet (73 boxes)

Collection includes photographs, slides (photographs), transparencies, glass plate negatives, books, manuscripts, correspondence, DVDs, CDs, videotapes, audiotapes, digital media, posters, drawings and other artwork, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance drafts and related papers, Lila drafts and related papers, school papers, and ephemera.

Collection also includes material by Wendy Kimball Pirsig (the author's second wife, also an author) and family papers, including of his mother, Harriet Marie Sjobeck Pirsig, and father, Maynard E. Pirsig. The family papers series includes a sub-series that is restricted; access is only with the permission of Wendy Pirsig until 2050 January 1.

Biographical / Historical

Robert M. Pirsig was an American writer and philosopher. He was the author of the philosophical novels Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (1974) and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991) (From: Wikipedia contributors, "Robert M. Pirsig," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed November 7, 2020).


Collection is physically arranged in a catalog sequence devised by the donor; these original catalog numbers are noted in item description where available. The finding aid is arranged in 20 series derived from the donor's description.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2021M-1. Gift of Wendy K. Pirsig, 2020 September 30.

Related Materials

Robert M. Pirsig’s 1966 Honda Super Hawk motorcycle was given by Wendy K. Pirsig, Robert M. Pirsig's second wife, to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2019.

Additional Pirsig material is held by Montana State University, Robert Pirsig Books and Memorabilia collection:

A small collection of Pirsig correspondence with UK philosophy student Anthony McWatt is in the Montana State archives.

Processing Information

The donor's detailed inventory of the papers served as the basis for this finding aid; the donor performed the preparation (boxing, foldering, labeling, and listing) of the collection for transfer to the Library. The accessioning archivist then prepared this finding aid. In matching old box numbers to new, a few old boxes did not correspond to new, and their contents therefore show no location (to be resolved with further processing).

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in 2023 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, contextualizing processing notes were added to the description of one item. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Pirsig, Robert M. Robert M. Pirsig papers, circa 1880-2020 (MS Am 3359): Guide
Houghton Library, Harvard University
2021 December 30
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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