Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Robert Peter Tristram Coffin Collection

LibraryGeorge J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives


Robert Peter Tristram Coffin Collection, 1842-1989, n.d. (bulk 1910-1955)


Correspondence, 1910-1955, 1981-1989, n.d.
12.75 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.1

Series Description:
Correspondence of Coffin, 1910-55 and undated; most are to family members, publishers, literary agents, or Bowdoin colleagues. When possible, undated letters are dated to a given year or month, and are filed at the beginning of that period; otherwise, they are filed at the end, arranged alphabetically. Also included is correspondence dating from 1981, with June Coffin, regarding Coffin and the Coffin Collection.
Arrangement: Arranged chronologically.
General Note: An incomplete item level chronological listing for correspondence 1954 and prior is available.
Restrictions: None.


Clippings, historical and miscellaneous, 1842-1954, n.d.
0.25 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.2

Series Description:
Newspapers and magazine clippings, collected and saved by Coffin, arranged by year. Many record major historical events, such as the deaths of Roosevelt and Goering; contain articles on people he knew; relate to places with which he was associated, including Bowdoin; or were saved for private reasons. Other clippings, including biographical pieces, published poems, or book reviews, can be found in the appropriate series.
Arrangement:Arranged chronologically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Books: proofs, illustrations, drafts, notes, etc., 1923-[54?], n.d. [American Primer to Dew and Bronze]
16 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.3

Series Description:
Proofs, illustrations, drafts, notes, reviews and other material (1923-[54?] and undated) relating to Coffin's books, published and unpublished, arranged alphabetically by title; followed by Coffin's notes for books never written. Some of the earliest drafts include material not in the final works. Collections of poems or essays, such as Primer for America and the Pulitzer Prize winning Strange Holiness, are included with historical works such as Kennebec: Cradle of Americans, from the "Rivers of America" series.

A Book of Seventeenth Century Prose, edited with Alexander M. Witherspoon, is combined with Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry, an expanded version of the work. Some J.J. Lankes illustrations, including those for Saltwater Farm are contained in Works by other authors.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Essays and short stories: notebooks, drafts and proofs, 1923-51, n.d.
1.75 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.4

Series Description:
Essays and short stories by Coffin on various subjects, 1923-51 and undated. Most were published in scholarly journals or popular magazines; several were later collected into books of essays, including An Attic Room, A Book of Uncles and Mainestays of Maine. The majority are typescripts or carbon typescripts, although some are manuscripts, proof copies, or printed texts. The alphabetically arranged essays are followed by mixed notebooks ([1930]-51 and undated) and newspaper clippings (1922-47 and undated) arranged chronologically. Several of the essays refer to events and people in the history of Bowdoin and Wells colleges, others are on literary topics, the state of Maine, or personal reminiscences.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Poetry: notebooks, drafts, etc., 1923-55, n.d.
2.25 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.5

Series Description:
Loose pages (1929-35) and notebooks, containing manuscript drafts of poems (1935-55), many with holographic corrections; followed by largely undated sections of typescripts and clippings, both arranged alphabetically. Also included are an illustrated volume of fair copies of poems dedicated to Coffin's son Richard, and a microfilm of three similar volumes. Many of the poems were later collected into books like Dew and Bronze. The series also includes submission records.
Arrangement:Arranged chronologically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Plays: drafts and outlines, n.d.
0.50 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.6

Series Description:
Undated manuscript and typescript drafts, including some carbon copies, of several plays by Coffin; "The Trojan Horse" also contains a manuscript outline for the play, and "The Yankee Princess" an early manuscript draft.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Contributions and reviews: drafts, notebooks, etc., 1935-48, n.d.
0.75 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.7

Series Description:
Notebooks and printed material relating to Coffin's contributions to the works of others, together with his book reviews (1935-48, undated). The contributions include book prefaces and introductions; and essays, reviews and announcements for works such as Robert T. Sterling's Lighthouses of the Maine Coast and the Dictionary of American Biography. There are also issues of Modern Literature (1935-37) and Everyday Reading for which Coffin served as contributing editor.

Coffin's reviews include several mixed manuscript notebooks, the "Overture to a Book Review Column ..." entitled "Book Talk" for Yankee Magazine, and typescripts arranged alphabetically by author, followed by clippings similarly arranged. Coffin's are followed by several reviews written by his wife, Ruth Coffin.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Lectures, addresses, readings and radio broadcasts: drafts, pamphlets, notes and programs, 1920-55, n.d.
1.25 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.8

Series Description:
Drafts and scripts, some with holograph corrections, of Coffin's lectures or addresses (1935-54 and undated), and radio broadcasts (1938-50); together with notes for poetry readings and other events at clubs, schools and colleges (1931-55), related printed programs, announcements, tickets (1936-55 and undated), itineraries (1936-50 and undated), and clippings (1920-1955 and undated). It includes the University of Athens lecture series and two series of Columbia lectures.

Those that were later gathered and published in book form, such as New Poetry of New England or On the Green Carpet, are included in the material concerning Coffin's books.
Arrangement:Arranged chronologically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Art work: sketches, drawings, prints, wood-blocks, etc., [1906-52?]
1 linear foot.
Catalog Number: M37.9

Series Description:
Original pencil, pen-and-ink or watercolor sketches and drawings by Coffin, [1920-52?], together with prints, Christmas cards, stencils, gravestone rubbings, and original printing blocks. Images include bookplate designs, sketches for the Bowdoin Bugle, land and seascapes, MacMillan Hall at Wells College, and family homes in Brunswick and Pennelville. Art from Coffin's childhood [1906-10?] is also included. Designs and studies prepared as illustrations for his published works can be found with the book material.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Bibliographies, 1935-53, n.d.
0.25 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.10

Series Description:
Coffin's bibliographies of his own work, prepared between 1935 and 1953, covering work from 1916 to 1953. The lists cover poems, articles and essays, illustrations, books (including reviews of his books) and radio broadcasts. Also included are the 1941 and 1942 Harvard Film Service catalogues, listing five Coffin recordings available for sale.
Arrangement:Arranged chronologically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Education: essays, notebooks, theses, etc., 1904-32
2.5 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.11

Series Description:
Essays, notebooks, examinations, documents and other material, 1904-32, relating to Coffin's education in the Brunswick schools, Bowdoin, Princeton and Oxford; arranged chronologically, with all diplomas together at the end.

The school material (1904-11) includes Coffin's class work, essays and notebooks (three marked "English III" appear to be for different courses), and other printed and manuscript items.

The Bowdoin material, 1911-15, contains essays, notebooks and examinations, especially papers for English and other classes. There are literary works, many published in the Quill, Bowdoin's literary magazine; prize essays submitted for competitions or for commencement; and printed ephemera.

Course notebooks and essays are also contained in the Princeton (1915-16) and Oxford (1916-17, 1919-21) sections; as well as class material and other documents, including the draft of Coffin's Oxford thesis on John Donne. The contents of an Oxford "notebook", now disbound, includes letters, drafts, essays, and other memorabilia relating to Coffin's year in England, but extends through 1932, when he was a member of the Wells College faculty.
Arrangement:Arranged chronologically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Professional records: lecture notes, registers, syllabi, etc., 1921-55
2.25 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.12

Series Description:
Records relating to Coffin as professor and teacher including lecture notes, schedules, syllabi, registers, examinations, etc.; arranged by institution, then alphabetically within each.

Wells College (1921-34) contains class records, and information on the establishment of an English Honors Course; Coffin's manuscript notes for a discussion on his faculty position; an anonymous play; and printed material relating to the college. (See also the Oxford notebook, which contains some material on the Wells years.)

Bowdoin College (1934-55) contains class records, including information on a World War II Air Force class; faculty notices and reports; manuscript notes; and printed event programs, memorial pamphlets, historical sketches, prize competition flyers, and other archival items.

The University of Cincinnati (1951) section contains material on Coffin as Elliston Professor; and that of the University of Athens (1953-54) includes documents concerning his travels and the Fulbright grant, schedules of his public lectures, and some class records. (The text of Coffin's Athens lectures can be found in the lecture series).

These are followed by material concerning summer programs at the University of New Hampshire Writers Conference (1938-55) and the Corpus Christi Fine Arts Colony (1947-54), including promotional material, schedules and lecture notes.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Personal records: documents, essays, notes, etc., 1882-1978, n.d.
3.75 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.13

Series Description:
Personal records include essays, legal documents, genealogies, notes, pamphlets and other private material, collected by Coffin or his family; arranged alphabetically by material type.

There are biographical and autobiographical sketches, newspaper articles (arranged by year), notes, obituaries, and memorials (1941-78), and material concerning the Rhodes scholarships. His Pulitzer Prize certificate is accompanied by folders of clippings. Genealogies, clippings and other family information is grouped under family history. Records of Coffin's military service (1917-18) include his army field message book and officer's identity card.

Legal documents (1882-1955) contain travel records, deeds, licenses, contracts, and birth and death certificates. Financial records (1917-55) include banking information, receipts, royalty statements, and tax, insurance and annuity records.

Societies and associations are represented by brochures, flyers, etc. (1932-53), relating to groups of both personal and literary interest.

There are also desk calendars (1936-53), announcements, invitations, pamphlets, programs and other ephemera; as well as folders on the Brunswick bicentenary, the dedication of the Bowdoin library's Coffin Room, material (mostly printed) relating to various schools and colleges, and alumni material from Bowdoin, Princeton and Oxford.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Works by others: essays, poems, illustrations, etc., 1921-1969, n.d.
0.75 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.14

Series Description:
Essays, poems, artwork, proofs, and published works by various authors and artists, 1921-1969 but mostly undated; arranged alphabetically, with anonymous works at the end of each section. They include illustrations by J.J. Lankes; essays by Vance Bourjaily, Charles Mergendahl, Gorham D.Munson, and Ruth, Peggy and Robert Coffin, Jr.; poems by Bourjaily, Odell Shepard and Harold Palmer, Jr.; proofs of part of Lankes's A Woodcut Manual and Rachel Field's Time Out of Mind; and presentation copies of works by Cyril Clemens, Mary Sinton Leitch, and others.

Some of the poems were by Coffin's students, were inspired by or dedicated to him, or were submissions to Yankee Magazine. Similar items, sent as enclosures, can be found with their cover letters in the correspondence.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Unsorted material, 1937-52, n.d.
0.5 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.15

Series Description:
Unsorted material, 1937-52 but mostly undated, broken into broad categories: literary drafts, manuscript notes and fragments, printed material, material re Coffin's works, research or lecture notes, and typescript notes and fragments. This material should be reviewed in person.
Arrangement:Not arranged.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Recordings, 1931-47, n.d.
1 linear foot.
Catalog Number: M37.16

Series Description:
Recordings of Coffin reading his poetry (several self-recorded), giving lectures or radio broadcasts (1935-47 and undated); together with a recording on the Pulitzer Prize award ceremony and a few miscellaneous other recordings (1931 and undated). For use if appropriate listening equipment is available, as these are LP sound disc recordings.
Arrangement:Arranged alphabetically.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


Photographs and other images, 1858-1954, n.d.
3 linear feet.
Catalog Number: M37.17

Series Description:
Photographic prints, slides and negatives, grouped by size. Those of Coffin include portraits, publicity images, class photos, and group shots with others (many unidentified). There are photos of members of his family, his artwork, his travels (mostly to Greece, including half the negatives), and his family homes. An oil painting of Coffin and a sculpted head are also included.
Arrangement:Arranged by size.
General Note:
Restrictions:None.


George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · scaref@bowdoin.edu · (207) 725-3288