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MS Ger 129

Claparède family. Claparède-Spir family papers: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: MS Ger 129
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Claparède family.
Title: Claparède-Spir family papers,
Date(s): 1867-1940.
Quantity: 1 collection (1 box (.5 linear ft.)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in French, German, and English.
Abstract: Papers primarily concern philosopher African Spir and include papers of Spir's daughter, Hélène Spir Claparède, and her family, especially her son, Jean-Louis Claparède.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Gift of Mme. Hélène Spir Claparède [via Professor William Ernest Hocking]; received: 1939-1940. Recat. from TP 4960.81.
Papers assembled by Hélène Spir Claparède and sent to Harvard philosophy professor William Ernest Hocking as gift to the Harvard University Library. For additional acquisition information, see correspondence between William Ernest Hocking and Hélène Spir Claparède in the papers of William Ernest Hocking item (1192) also at the Houghton Library.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but 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.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Claparède-Spir Family Papers (MS Ger 129). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

African Alexandrovich Spir (1837-1890) [also known as Afrikan Spir] was born in the city of Yelisawetgrad, Ukraine. He left Russia permanently in 1867, studied in Leipzig, Germany when philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a student there (though they never met), and in 1869 moved to Tübingen, then in 1871 to Stuttgart. He married Elizabeth Gatternich in 1872 and they had a daughter Hélène. His most important book, Denken und Wirklichkeit: Versuch einer Erneuerung der kritischen Philosophie = Thought and reality: Attempt at a renewal of critical philosophy, was published in 1873 by his friend and publisher J.G. (Joseph Gabriel) Findel of Leipzig. In 1878 he contracted a lung infection and moved to Lausanne, Switzerland and in 1886 he moved to Geneva where he died of influenza in March of 1890. Spir never held a university appointment and therefore much of his writing remained unknown throughout his life. Some believe his work influenced the German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.
Spir's daughter, Hélène Spir Claparède, is sometimes cited as Hélène Claparède-Spir. Her husband was Swiss psychologist and educator, Edouard Claparède (1873-1940). They had two children, a daughter, Eliane Claparède, and a son, Jean Louis Claparède (1901-1937). Jean Louis Claparède was an active proponent of the international peace movement. He died of a heart attack at age 35.


Organized into the following series:

Scope and Contents

Papers include: compositions by and about African Spir, Hélène Spir Claparède, and Jean Louis Claparède; clippings; diary excerpts; family photographs; obituaries; translations; transcripts; an autobiographical memoir written by Hélène Spir Claparède; and a list of family materials held by at the Université de Genève. Some material in this collection is original and some is typescript transcript copy compiled and annotated by Hélène Spir Claparède.
Correspondence of African Spir and Hélène Spir Claparède include prominent correspondents: J.G. (Joseph Gabriel) Findel, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, William Ernest Hocking, A. (Auguste) Penjon, and Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy. Topics discussed include African Spir's philosophical ideas, the publishing of his works, his influence on the thought of philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and philosophy and world peace.
Materials are in German, French, and English.


This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

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