In 1823, Nathaniel Johnston of New Hampshire donated his library of more than 300 French books to the College, forming the basis of a large concentration of Romance literature. Two years later, the College established a professorship for instruction in the modern languages of Europe. An informal proposal was made to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of the Class of 1825 that he should visit Europe for the purpose of fitting himself for the position, with the understanding that on his return he would be appointed to it. With Longfellow's appointment in 1829, Bowdoin became the fourth college in the United States to teach modern languages. During his six-year tenure, Longfellow added many volumes of Romance literature to the Library. He also prepared a number of texts for his French, Spanish, and Italian classes.
Daniel Raynes Goodwin of the Class of 1832 was Bowdoin's second professor of modern languages. While studying in Europe, he purchased in Italy about two hundred volumes for the College.
In the following century, the gift by Marguerite Yourcenar (Bowd. Hon. 1968) of a complete research collection of her works and works related to her has extended the Romance literature holdings to contemporary writing and publishing as well.
In all, there are more than thirteen hundred titles of Romance language literature and history, exclusive of those in the Bowdoin bequest.
Major holdings include:
See also related manuscript holdings: