Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS.GL.001

David Robbins Coffin papers

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of Coffin's personal papers and materials relating to his teaching career at Princeton University and his scholarly research interests in Renaissance architecture and garden history. Materials include notebooks, index cards, correspondence, typescripts, course syllabi, class and lecture notes, and offprints. Of particular note are Coffin's notebooks, which contain extensive research notes on English, French, and Italian gardens. There is also a significant amount of visual material, including photographs, slides, microfilm, and negatives.


  • Creation: 1918 - 2003

Conditions Governing Access

An appointment is required for access to these papers. To request an appointment, fill out the online form:

For research queries, contact the staff of Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives (

Conditions Governing Use

Duplication of materials in the collection may be governed by copyright and other restrictions.


40 linear feet (38 boxes of notebooks; 3 boxes of offprints; 3 boxes of catalog cards; 7 boxes of negatives; 3 boxes of slides; 11 boxes of unprocessed materials, papers and photographs)

Biographical / Historical

David Robbins Coffin (1918-2003) was an American historian of Renaissance gardens and landscape architecture. Coffin taught at Princeton University from 1949-1988, serving as chair of the art and archaeology department from 1964-1970. In addition, Coffin was the first chairman of the Garden Advisory Committee for Dumbarton Oaks, which led to the establishment of a scholarly program for garden and landscape studies in 1971. Coffin also organized the first garden symposium at Dumbarton Oaks in 1971, which focused on his métier, Italian gardens.

Other Finding Aids

A preliminary inventory of the collection is available here:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 2009, Dumbarton Oaks acquired the Coffin papers from his estate and the collection was transferred from Coffin's residence and the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ.

David Robbins Coffin papers, 1918-2003 (MS.GL.001): Finding Aid.
Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard University.
January 31, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Dumbarton Oaks Repository

Dumbarton Oaks holds archival collections in its Rare Book Collection, Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives, and the Dumbarton Oaks Archives. The collections include: the papers of noteworthy scholars in the three fields that Dumbarton Oaks supports (Byzantine, Pre-Columbian, and Garden and Landscape); image collections depicting objects or sites of topical interest to scholars in the three fields; Beatrix Farrand’s personal archive of letters and original drawings that document the development of the Dumbarton Oaks Garden; and institutional records and architectural plans and drawings documenting the history of Dumbarton Oaks. For more information about hours and to make an appointment to consult any of the collections listed here, please fill out the request form:

1703 32nd Street, NW
Washington DC 20007 USA