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Romance Languages, Literature and History

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:

French Revolutionary Pamphlet Collection:
Including the Procès-Verbal de L'Assemblée des Communes et de L'Assemblée Nationale, 1789-91; Assemblée Nationale Journal des Débats et des Décrets, 1789-91; and Bibliothèque de l'Homme Public ..., 1790-92, as well as numerous single pamphlets, approximately 230 titles in all, they were given by Benjamin Vaughan (1751-1835). He was ardently sympathetic to the French cause, was forced to flee England because of those sympathies, and finally settled on family lands at Hallowell, Maine, in 1796.
Marguerite Yourcenar Collection:
More than 350 titles including first and subsequent editions and many translations, as well as works edited and translated by Yourcenar (Bowd. hon.1968), and works about her. She has frequently written bibliographical notes on the copies of her works given to Bowdoin, tracing the development or printing history of a piece, or criticizing a translation. A small Yourcenar manuscript collection contains edited drafts of two of her works.

The Yourcenar Collection: A Descriptive Catalogue, by Bowdoin professors Robert R. Nunn and Edward J. Geary, gives detailed information about both the printed and manuscript material in the collection.
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