Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1092.2

William James drawings


Drawings, sketches, and sketchbooks by William James, the American philosopher and psychologist.


  • Creation: 1859-1880


Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English, French, and German.

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.


1 linear feet (2 boxes)

Over 60 pen and pencil matted drawings and 3 sketchbooks. All individual drawings were received matted, but some have since been removed from mats during conservation. Most mats are annotated by Henry James III (1879-1947), the son of William James.

Includes: juvenilia; photograph of James's portrait of Kitty Temple and drawings of Newton Dexter and Francis James Child; three pocket notebooks used by James in Bonn and Cambridge, containing notes and sketches; drawings from the Thayer/Agassiz Brazil expedition, 1865-1866; sketches from his Lawrence Scientific School and Harvard Medical School days; and various self-portraits, bookplate images, landscapes, images of animals, and caricatures and portraits of family and friends.

Biographical / Historical

William James (1842-1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist, a leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, and of the psychological movement of functionalism. James studied painting in the studio of William Morris Hunt during 1859-1860, but he soon abandoned this career direction. By 1861 he had entered the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University and by 1864 he was studying at the Harvard Medical School.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Sketchbooks
  2. II. Brazil
  3. III. Drawings found with Edmund Tweedy's papers
  4. IV. Europe
  5. V. Medical School
  6. VI. The Sixties
  7. VII. Miscellaneous drawings

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

42M-386. Gift of Henry James III; received: 1942 December 23.


James, William, 1842-1910. Brazil through the eyes of William James. Letters, diaries, and drawings, 1865-1866. Edited by Maria Helena P.T. Machado. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, 2006.

Processing Information

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

These drawings were formerly housed in a green cloth portfolio; now stored in a box.

Former number 51 has been recataloged to MS Am 1092.1.

James, William, 1842-1910. William James drawings, 1859-1880: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
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.

Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440