(Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images and Emory University)

A collection of letters written by Barack Obama is going to be available to the public for the first time thanks to Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library in Atlanta.

The nine letters were all written to Alexandra McNear, his girlfriend at Occidental College in Los Angeles, after he had transferred to Columbia University. Rosemary M. Magee, the director of the library, would not say who had the letters previously, only that the library had obtained them through a middleman described as “someone in the rare book world.”

“What we learn about is a young man who is yet to become or even dream about becoming President Obama,” Magee said. “It’s a story of a journey over a couple of years about a sense of self-understanding, self-definition and his understanding of himself and place in the world.”

The letters are reportedly more thoughtful than romantic, with topics about identity and self-doubt covered more than their relationship.

“These letters aren’t particularly personal,” said Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University. “You’re coming in at these letters at a point in President Obama’s and Alex McNear’s relationship where you can see the arc of the breakup that’s going to happen. There’s no breakup letter per se, but you can see there are a couple of post-breakup letters.

“Their relationship, at the point that we’re reading it, is very intellectual and they’re clearly struggling with each other,” Gillespie added. “They’re both trying to find themselves and they’re having tough intellectual conversations with each other.”