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1923 – 1957


Manuscript Collection Number 614


Accessioned:  Purchase, July 2005


Extent:  1 linear ft.


Content:  Photographs, letters, essays, invoices, book catalogs, ephemera, news clippings, stamps, and poetry, prose and play scripts.


Access:  The collection is open for research.


Processed:  September 2005 by Karalee Kopreski

Table of Contents

Biographical Note

David Louis Posner

            American poet David Louis Posner was born August 6, 1921 in New York to Nell and Louis S. Posner.  Although his father was born in Britain, he worked as a lawyer on Wall Street and later became Commissioner of Education for New York City.  In 1945, Posner received his B.A. from Kenyon College where he majored in French and in 1947 he received his M.A. in English Literature from Harvard.  After studying at the Sorbonne, he worked for two years with Radio Diffusion Française interviewing famous personalities.  During this time, he travelled extensively in Europe and pursued an interest in archeology.  He accompanied an expedition searching for a Phoenician city in Libya and another working at the Palace of Minos in Crete.  In 1953, Posner returned to formal academic pursuits and studied modern languages at Wadham College, Oxford.  Posner’s poem, “The Deserted Altar,” won the Newdigate Prize for English Verse in 1956.  From 1957-1969, Posner was an English instructor and Assistant Curator of Poetry at the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He became an assistant professor of English at the University of California and remained there until 1973.  He published seven books of poetry, including The Deserted Altar (1957), A Rake’s Progress: A poem in five sections (1967), Visit to the East (1971) and Geographies (1979).  Posner was also a life-long collector of first editions of literature until his death in 1985.



Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004.  Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.  Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2004.


Additional information acquired from materials in collection.

Scope and Contents Note

            The David Louis Posner Papers span the dates 1923 – 1957, and consist of one linear foot of photographs, school records, letters, essays, invoices, rare book catalogs, ephemera, and poetry, prose, and play scripts.  Though small and clearly incomplete as a record of Posner’s life, the collection provides good biographical and literary content for study of this American poet.

            The first series of the collection contains personal materials that consist of photographs and items related to David Posner’s education, including his early years at the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, his undergraduate years at Kenyon College and materials relating to various graduate programs.  These education-related materials consist of progress reports, official letters, sports schedules, banquet invitations, essay exams, and graduation programs, and provide a detailed look at Posner’s early educational experiences.  Letters from David’s father written between 1928 and 1951 are arranged chronologically.  The letter dated August 1, 1950 includes a typescript copy of a letter by William Carlos Williams responding to David Posner’s poetry.  The first series also includes various ephemera dating from 1931 – 1957, as well as invoices, catalogs and letters from American and British book dealers, which highlight Posner’s life-long interest in collecting first editions of literature.

            The second series contains poetry, prose and play manuscripts.  The many poetry manuscripts are divided between typescript and autograph copies because this was how the items were originally received.  The typescript copies of poetry contain corrections written in David Posner’s hand. 

Series List

I.          Personal


            A.  Photographs


            B.  Education


            C.  Correspondence


            D.  Book collecting


            E.  Ephemera



II.        Manuscripts


            A.  Poetry


            B.  Prose


            C.  Plays


Contents List

Folder -- Contents

                        I.  Personal


                        I. A.  Photographs, 1923, 1938 and undated


                        Photographs (20 items)

F1                    Black and white photographs of various sizes, including three 7” x 10” photographs.  Two photographs have handwritten pencil identifications on back:  One reads, “David summer 1923” and the other identifies the year as 1923 and the people in the photo as David and his mother, Nell.  Picture of football team is stamped on back as Nov. 29, 1938.


                        I. B.  Education, 1931 – 1952 


                        Early Education, 1931 – 1944

F2                    Includes report cards and progress reports from the Ethical Culture Schools in New York City, the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and Camp Wigwam in Maine.  Also includes tuition checks, banquet invitations, sports schedules, graduation day programs, and a report on David from the Vocational Guidance Department of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology.


                        Essays, 1941 and undated

F3                    Typescript and handwritten essays by David.  Some include grade and comments by teacher.  Essay on Thomas Jefferson and Thomas More’s Utopia are in both typescript and handwritten form.  Also included are essays on military preparedness, Lorenzo Medici, and David’s outline of his utopian society.


                        Kenyon College, 1943 and undated

F4                    Includes 22 undated blue-book essay exams written by David on topics in literature and philosophy.  Also includes an undated pamphlet entitled “The Cost of  Kenyon Education,” two 1943 play programs from the Kenyon Dramatic Club’s performances of Three Men on a Horse and In Time to Come in which David performed and letters regarding David’s potential for service as a military officer.


                        Graduate Studies, 1945 – 1952

F5                    Includes letters from Harvard University, the American School of Prehistoric Research, and Wadham College at Oxford.


                        I.C. Correspondence, 1928-1957


                        Letters from father, 1928-1951 and undated

F6                    Although the earliest letter is from 1928, the bulk of the letters are from 1947 and 1948 with letters written almost weekly.  The letters are predominately typescript copies with only a few handwritten ones.  The letter dated August 1, 1950


                        I.C. Correspondence, 1928-1957 (cont’d)


F6                    references William Carlos Williams, a “poet of accepted stature,” whom David’s father, Louis, met at a writer’s retreat [Yado] at Saratoga Springs.  Included with the letter is a typescript letter from Williams (dated July 27, 1950) in which he responds to some of David’s poetry that he read at Louis’ request. Also included are three letters written to David from his mother, Nell.


                        Letters from friends, 1942-1957 and undated

F7                    Includes letters to David during his time at Kenyon College, and letters and postcards addressed to him in France, London, and New York.


                        Business Letters, 1942-1951

F8                    Includes a letter dated November 28, 1950 from T.S. Eliot’s secretary, a letter from Sterling Optical regarding David’s prescription and several letters regarding financial matters.  Also includes cancelled checks from David Posner’s account written to travel agencies and book sellers.


                        Miscellaneous Letters, 1937-1948 and undated

F9                    Includes four letters written by David, one of which dates back to David’s elementary school days.  Also includes letters written by Louis regarding David’s interest in book collecting, and correspondence between Nell and friend, Stanley, regarding a demonstration in New York in 1939 against the Nazis.


                        I.D. Book Collecting, 1929-1952


                        Catalogs — U.S., 1929-1952

F10                  Advertisements from Columbia University Press Bookstore and catalogs from Swann Auction Galleries for sale number 18 in 1942, sale numbers 48-51, 54 in 1943 and sale number 309 in 1952.


                        Catalogs — England, 1941-1951

F11                   Catalog numbers 67, 68, 69 from Mercurius Britannicus (Aug., Oct., Nov. 1941); Voyages and Travels catalog numbers 727 and 723; Grafton & Co. catalog numbers 286 and 287 (1951).


                        Catalogs — General, 1929-1952

F12                  Includes miscellaneous envelopes, catalogs, lists of book dealers, envelopes from book dealers, and advertisements for special editions including a first edition of John Dryden’s MacFlecknoe, the poet-of-the-month club and editions from the Modern Library.  Also included is a 1929 date book with “Louis S. Posner” in gilt on front cover with handwritten notes on various books.




                        I.D. Book Collecting, 1929-1952 (cont’d)


                        Letters from booksellers, 1931-1952

F13                  Includes letters regarding catalogs, account information, newly acquired first editions and pending orders from various book dealers including Elkin Matthews, H.M. Fletcher and Percy Dobell.


                        Invoices from booksellers, 1928-1952

F14                  Invoices from Bertram Rota, Elkin Matthews, W. Heffer and Sons and others dating from 1928 - 1952.  The earlier invoices are addressed to Mrs. Louis Posner, while the invoices from the late 1940s and 1950s are addressed to David Posner.


                        Ex Libris, 1936

F15                  Morley, Christopher. Ex Libris, New York, 1936.  An anthology printed and bound (and sold) at the First National Book Fair sponsored by the National Association of Book Publishers.


                        I.E.  Ephemera, 1931-1957


                        Ephemera, 1931-1957 and undated

F16                  Includes mockup for a booklet or pamphlet cover for “The Deserted Altar” dated 1956 and a bookjacket from Posner’s 1957 collection, The Deserted Altar, with unadressed letter written in David’s hand.  Also includes Louis S. Posner’s business card, tourist map of Venice, various postcards, an announcement for the 1942 summer programs with the American Friends Service Committee, TIME magazine current affairs test for January 1939, an In Memoriam notice for Stanley Keyes, a pamphlet of books banned in Boston, a transcript of a radio address entitled “The Nazi Madness—A World Menace” given by Samuel C. Lamport in New York in 1933, and an application for the National Writers Club.


                        Newspaper Ephemera, 1936-1942 and undated

F17                  Includes WWII postage stamps (one, two, and three cents), letters to the editor from The Nation April 25, 1942, various newspaper clippings on auctions and purchases of rare editions of literature, cartoons, a February 1937 article from the New York Times Magazine entitled “In Search of the England That Dickens Knew,” and a New York Times article from May 19, 1937 entitled “Baldwin Good-Bye Spoken to Youth,” which details the British Prime Minister’s resignation and includes the text of his speech.


                        II.  Manuscripts, undated


                        II. A.  Poetry


                        Autograph Poetry, undated

F18                  Autograph manuscripts of Posner’s poetry, including rough drafts and worksheets as well as fair copies.  Includes poems entitled “Progress,” “Interlude,” “Lesson in Anatomy,” “Moving-Pictures” and “To Be Spoken in Time of War.”


                        Typescript Poetry, undated

F19                  Typescript poetry manuscripts, including “Thanatopsis,” “In Memory of Coco,” “When the Dark Days Come,” “Heart of Darkness,” “History Lesson” and “To Adelaide Proctor,” among others.  Several manuscripts bear handwritten corrections.


                        II. B.  Prose


                        Prose, undated

F20                  Handwritten and typescript copies of essays and short stories.


                        II. C.  Plays


                        Typescript Plays, undated

F21                  Typescript copies of two one-act plays

                        “The Mermaid’s Apprentice” (8 pp.)

                        “Midnight” (14 pp., 3 copies)

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