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David Louis Posner papers


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

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.

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.

Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Purchase, July 2005.

Processed by Karalee Kopreski, September 2005. Encoded by Thomas Pulhamus, March 2010. Further encoding by Lauren Connolly, July 2015, and Tiffany Saulter, December 2015.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2010 March 24
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

Folder F1
Scope and Contents

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.

Physical Description

20 items

Early Education, 1931 – 1944.
Folder F2
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F3
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F4
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F5
Scope and Contents

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

Letters from father, 1928-1951 and undated.
Folder F6
Scope and Contents

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 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.
Folder F7
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F8
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F9
Scope and Contents

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.

Catalogs — U.S, 1929-1952.
Folder F10
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F11
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F12
Scope and Contents

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.
Letters from booksellers, 1931-1952.
Folder F13
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F14
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F15
Scope and Contents

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.
Ephemera, 1931-1957 and undated.
Folder F16
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F17
Scope and Contents

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.

Autograph Poetry, undated.
Folder F18
Scope and Contents

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.
Folder F19
Scope and Contents

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.

Prose, undated.
Folder F20
Scope and Contents

Handwritten and typescript copies of essays and short stories.

Scope and Contents

Typescript copies of two one-act plays

“The Mermaid’s Apprentice”.
Folder F21
Physical Description

8 pp

Folder F21
Physical Description

14 pp., 3 copies

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