Processing the Stephen Toulmin archival collection

During the winter 2010 quarter I am doing an internship with USC’s Special Collections. I have the honor of processing the papers and manuscripts of notable 20th Century philosopher, public intellectual, and professor, Dr. Stephen Toulmin. Toulmin was a King’s College-educated philosopher and was a protege of Ludwig Wittgenstein, about whom he researched, studied, and wrote throughout much of his career.

Dr. Toulmin was a prolific intellectual, writer, and speaker. Much of the collection that I am processing is made up of documents and papers from the many conferences that Toulmin attended throughout this career. In addition there are draft speeches from various symposia and colloquia, numerous published essays (prints and drafts), original manuscripts, collections of notebooks and original research notes, and correspondence between Toulmin and his many friends and colleagues. Toulmin also wrote extensively on philosophy, ethics, and science throughout his long career, and this archival collection contains many manuscripts and drafts of some of his more notable publications:

1. The Uses of Argument
2. Wittgenstein’s Vienna
3. An Introduction to Reasoning
4. Cosmopolis
5. The Abuse of Casuistry

Overall the collection is composed of about 21 bankers’ boxes of materials spanning from the 1940s to the 1990s. The earliest item is from 1949 and there are several folders of Toulmin’s research notes from the 1950s. However the bulk of the collection spans from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. In addition to the conference and manuscript materials there is also university administrativa, audio reels of lectures and interviews, photographs, cassettes, and a small personal collection of books.

Dr. Toulmin was a professor at such universities as King’s College, Oxford, Brandeis, Michigan State University, University of California-Santa Cruz, the University of Chicago, and Northwestern. He was most recently a professor at the University of Southern California from 1993 until he retired in the summer of 2009.

Dr. Toulmin passed away in December 2009 and I currently have the honor to assist USC’s Special Collections department with processing this magnificent archival collection. Please visit this New York Times link for a well-written snapshot of Dr. Toulmin’s professional career.

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