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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Thomas Ollive Mabbott Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1918-1979
Creator: Mabbott, Thomas Ollive (1898-1968)
Extent: 28.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0429
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: English professor. Correspondence, subject, and research files documenting Mabbott's scholarly pursuits and his hobbies. It is primarily made up of research files relating to Edgar Allan Poe.

Access: This collection is open for research. The correspondence between Mabbott and Ben Fisher is under seal until 2025.

Use: Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.


Preferred Citation: Thomas Ollive Mabbott Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Thomas Ollive Mabbott (1898-1968) was born and raised in New York City. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia University, earning his AB (1920), AM (1921), and PhD (1923) in English. After graduating from Columbia, Mabbott taught English literature and composition at Northwestern University. In 1928, he left Northwestern to teach at Brown. He was there for only one year before accepting a position at Hunter College and moving back to New York City. Mabbott remained at Hunter as a professor of English and research scholar. His work as a teacher is profiled in Patricia Edwards Clyne's article "Thomas O. Mabbott as Teacher" (Books at Iowa 34 (April 1981). Mabbott also provided two essays for Books at Iowa, "Observations on Poets and Poetry" (29) and "The Books in the House of Usher" (34); Maureen Cobb Mabbott contributed "My Last Bookshelf" to issue 38.
TOM, as he was known, was a renowned Milton scholar but also studied Walt Whitman, Thomas Chatterton, and E.C. Pinkney. However, he is best remembered as an expert on Edgar Allan Poe. Mabbott was compiling the complete writings of Poe when he died on May 15, 1968, at the age of sixty-nine. He was survived by his widow, Maureen Cobb Mabbott, and their daughter, Jane Adele.

The papers of Thomas O. Mabbott reflect his scholarship and hobbies. The collection, measuring 27 linear feet, dates from 1918 to 1979, and is arranged in eight series.
The first series consists of nine boxes of personal papers. It includes certificates, diplomas, photographs, and correspondence. Correspondents include Walter R. Benjamin, Clarence S. Brigham, S. Foster Damon, August Derleth, J. Milton French, Clarence Gohdes, Charles F. Heartman, Philip D. Jordan, John W. Ostrom, Mary E. Phillips, Frank L. Pleadwell, Arthur H. Quinn, G.E.B. Saintsbury, Vincent Starrett, William P. Trent, Robert W.G. Vail, and J.H. Whitty.
The second and third series represent Mabbbott's life's work as a scholar. The section titled "Literary Interests" reflects his reading and research subjects. Included here are research notes on authors from William Blake and John Milton to Washington Irving and Mark Twain. There are also copies of articles by TOM and others on a variety of literary topics. The Edgar Allan Poe series is the largest in the collection and documents the main thrust of Mabbott's research career. Nearly 35 boxes of Poe material is gathered here. There are research files relating to specific Poe works, published and unpublished articles about Poe by TOM and others, copies of Poe's writing, and copies of the journals in which Poe's works originally appeared. The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe edited by TOM is present in manuscript form, complete with discarded plans, illustrations that were and were not used, page proofs, contracts, and reviews. Some later additions by Burton Pollin round out this series, including a series of scrapbooks apparently compiled by Mabbott and loaned to Pollin. Notes by both men may appear in the scrapbooks.
The next four sections represent TOM's other interests and hobbies. There are three boxes of broadsides and materials relating to 15th century prints. Another three boxes contain certificates, auction catalogs, and articles about his special hobby, numismatics. One more box contains correspondence and published materials relating to his interest in collecting newspapers. The final series is made up of the writings of Maureen Cobb Mabbott and her correspondence.
TOM also bequeathed his collection of books by and about Edgar Allan Poe to the University of Iowa Libraries, and they continue to be a seperately shelved sequence in Special Collections. The collection is particularly rich in appearances of Poe's works in magazines. An endowment accompanied the gift, and the income from this fund has allowed the Libraries to add fine press and other editions of Poe's work as well as books about Poe. In 2003 the collection was greatly enriched with the gift by Burton Pollin of his collection of illustrated Poe -- several hundred books in diverse languages containing illustrated versions of Poe's works. The Mabbott Poe collection can be searched in the Libraries' bibliographic database, InfoHawk. Go to the "expert search" screen and enter "wcl=mpoe and wcl=spec". This will bring up the collection in order by date of publication; that list can be reordered by title, call number, etc.
In 2005 Pollin further enriched the collection with more ephemeral publications containing illustrated Poe; like the earlier gift, much of this was collected in the course of his Images of Poe's works: a comprehensive descriptive catalogue of illustrations (Greenwood Press, 1989). The serial appearances, comic books, posters, etc. that were not appropriately cataloged have been listed.

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The detailed description has not been entered into the repository.
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