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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1280H

Ralph Waldo Emerson journals and notebooks


Collection includes the autograph manuscript journals and notebooks of the American essayist and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Also includes items by others in the Emerson family.


  • 1820-1880 and undated

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to the finding aid describing this collection are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


18.2 linear feet (252 items in 194 containers)

This collection includes items by others in the Emerson family, with annotations by Ralph Waldo Emerson and annotations by Emerson's descendents and editors throughout.

Titles follow the usage in: JMN, The Journals and Miscellaneous Notebooks I-XVI (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1960-1982: see ETL, the Editorial Title List, I, 403-415, Appendix I. XVI, 537-541, and passim); PN, The Poetry Notebooks, (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1986); and TN, The Topical Notebooks I-III (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1990- 1994). The first title in the first line of each entry is the editors' title from ETL or the printed edition, with the date assigned by them. Following the practice of the editors, the "designation [of the manuscript] by Emerson or others" is noted under "Earlier title[s]" in the second line of the entry, with "Cabot A" etc. referring to labels (stamped letters or numbers cut and pasted to the manuscripts) by James Elliot Cabot.

Readers may consult in the editions cited detailed physical descriptions of the notebooks whose texts have been published; any variations from those descriptions are noted below. The designation "Not published" (noted here for manuscripts by Ralph Waldo Emerson only) means that the text does not appear in these editions: no attempt has been made to track publication elsewhere. For the "not published" items by Emerson and others, a brief description is given; dates supplied by this catalogue (rather than by Emerson's editors) are given in brackets in the first line.

Listed are all the items in the original deposit as well as journals and miscellaneous notebooks added to the sequence later and not catalogued elsewhere; for items accessioned later the Houghton accessions number is noted. The arrangement and order follows that in the ETL, which follows the original "Houghton numbers": see ETL, 403 for an analysis of the arrangement. Following the editorial practice, point numbers (16 and 16.1, etc.) indicate items that include more than one text in a single volume: "double enders" written at different times or for different purposes from both ends of the codex, or separate leaves or fascicles found by the editors within another volume. Alphabetical suffixes to numbers follow the original Houghton numbers and generally reflect distinct physical items.

Since 1956 the manuscripts have been shelved in roughly chronological order with some items cased together out of numerical order, as follows: (2,5,7-13), (14-15), (17-19,93a-95), (22-26), (27-30), (112 and 112.1), (164,166), (165,182-187), (167-174), (175-181), (188-193).


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Journals, notebooks, and account books
  2. II. Manuscripts by others
  3. III. Pocket diaries
  4. IV. Miscellany

Physical Location

b, MS

Immediate Source of Acquisition

91M-94. Manuscripts presented by The Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association in honor of the fiftieth birthday of the Houghton Library; deposit: 1942; gift: 1991.

This collection also includes the following accessions deposited by the R.W. Emerson Memorial Association: 43-2124 (env. only), 43M-271, 43M-272, and 43M-273 (all received 9 Nov. 1943); and 51M-29 (received Aug. 1951).

Also includes item (201): No accession number. Found with: MS Storage 281. Collection materials assembled by Carolyn Jakeman.

Processing Information

Processed by: Elizabeth A. Falsey

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882. Ralph Waldo Emerson journals and notebooks, 1820-1880: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
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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