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Roberto Brenes Mesen (1874-1947) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/12/5

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Scope and Contents

Through his long and varied career in both Latin America and the United States, Roberto Brenes Mesen came into contact with many noteworthy political and literary figures of the day. His interests were wide-ranging; there is material of historical significance in several different areas in this collection, extending from the theosophical movement to the philosophy of education. The Roberto Brenes Mesen Papers comprise 24 boxes and are arranged in six subseries: biographical materials, correspondence, teaching materials, research materials, publications, and critical studies.

The biographical materials include autobiographical notes, diary fragments, address books, passports, educational certificates, newspaper clippings, and a few financial records. Also included in this subseries are printed materials pertaining to Brenes Mesen's professional associations and activities (additional material on these subjects may be found in the correspondence files), along with items relating to members of his family.

The bulk of the correspondence files dates from 1903 to 1947, with one folder containing items dating from the period 1947-1959 and addressed to Ana Maria Carillo de Brenes Mesen after Brenes Mesen's death. Most of the correspondence in the collection is incoming, with only three separate folders (Box 6, Folders 2, 3, and 4) containing Brenes Mesen's letter drafts and carbons. In one instance both incoming and outgoing correspondence has been arranged in a single folder: the correspondence between Brenes Mesen and the law firm of Hardin, Hess & Eder (Box 5, Folder 9). These letters concern Brenes Mesen's involvement in negotiations to release the Niehaus brothers--three prominent Costa Rican businessmen and landholders of German extraction who were held in an American internment camp during World War II.

A separate folder of prominent correspondents has been extracted from the general correspondence (see list of contents for Box 5, Folder 15). This includes letters mainly from various Hispanic literary figures along with a few letters from Ricardo Jimenez, the President of Costa Rica from 1910-1914. In general, the vast majority of the correspondence reflects Brenes Mesen's literary activities and his business affairs. There is little personal correspondence, with only a few items between members of the Brenes Mesen family, and only small amount with former students and academic colleagues.

The teaching materials are very sparse and include only a few course descriptions, reading lists, lecture notes, and examination questions. Most extensive in this category are the class records from Brenes Mesen's years at Northwestern; these span the period 1926-1939. One folder (Box 6, Folder 6) contains correspondence from Syracuse and Northwestern universities concerning academic appointments and salary.

The research files include notebooks and notes pertaining to Brenes Mesen's academic, political, philosophic, and literary interests. Much of this material is mixed in subject matter, and is often undated and untitled. The main subject areas include etymology and philological studies, literary style and poetics, metaphysics, and politics. The notes have been separated into these broad categories whenever possible, but the contents of two boxes (Boxes 10 and 11) can best be described as miscellaneous and fragmentary.

The bulk of the collection consists of Brenes Mesen's publications. He wrote voluminously on a wide variety of subjects, and although the representation here of his publications is not complete, it is quite extensive. The first section of this subseries is devoted to his major works, and includes both manuscript and printed copies. This is followed by poetry and prose articles, subdivided by journal or column title whenever possible. Many of Brenes Mesen's articles appeared in newspaper publications and a number are represented in the newspaper clippings.

Critical studies concerned with Roberto Brenes Mesen's work fill one box.

Addition (Box 26): These files include books, clippings, programs, and correspondence related to the Roberto Brenes Mesen Centennial Celebration in 1974.

Materials include books, clippings, and letters sent to Brenes’ daughter Fresia Brenes de Hilarov from Evangelina Gamboa. Included in the clippings are pieces from Hilarov describing her father and their relationship.


  • 1893 - 1976


Language of Materials

The majority of the material is in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


26.00 Boxes


Roberto Brenes Mesen, educator, political critic, poet, and philologist, taught in Northwestern University's Department of Romance Languages from 1926-1939. His Papers consist of biographical materials, correspondence, teaching materials, research materials, publications, and critical studies. The majority of the matieral is in Spanish.


The papers of Roberto Brenes Mesen are organized into: biographical materials; correspondence (following Brenes Mesen's original organization, general correspondence is arranged by date, and subject correspondence is arranged alphabetically then by date); teaching materials (in alphabetically-arranged categories); research materials; publications (major publications, arranged by title; poetry, arranged by date; articles, arranged by title; newspaper clippings, arranged by date); and critical studies (arranged by date).

Method of Acquisition

The Roberto Brenes Mesen Papers were donated to the Northwestern University Library by his daughter Fresia Brenes de Hilarov in 1973, and were transferred from the Special Collections Department to the University Archives in 1975 (Accession #77-31).

Addition (box 26) donated by Andrew Kass, November 9th, 2011, Accession #11-204.

Separated Materials

Photographs, oversize documents and a few material artifacts have been transferred to the appropriate sections of the University Archives. Approximately two linear feet of duplicate newspaper clippings and extraneous material has been discarded, and approximately four linear feet of newspapers, duplicate publications, and Spanish literary material not directly relating to Roberto Brenes Mesen has been donated to other repositories.

Guide to the Roberto Brenes Mesen (1874-1947) Papers
Samantha Meigs, August 1990, Andres Kaneb, July 2022
August 1990, July 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US