Paul V. Turner | Jul 06, 2020
Just released is a website devoted to reconstructing Frank Lloyd Wright's "library"—defined as all the surviving books Wright owned, and the lost books that can be identified, as well as works he is known to have read, even if he didn't own them. Also included are groups of books Wright had access to, such as Louis Sullivan's library during the time Wright worked for him around 1890. The website is flwlibrary.sites.stanford.edu.
Wright had an extraordinary passion for reading, throughout his life—not only for books on architecture and related subjects, but for poetry, novels, drama, and books on history, philosophy, economics, and other subjects. His own writings are full of references to books he read and his views on them; in his autobiography, for example, he speaks of authors and books he read in each period of his life.
One of Wright’s favorite books of humor, inscribed to him by Carl Sandburg
On a visit to Taliesin West in 2017, I conferred with Margo Stipe, the archivist there, and asked why there was no published catalogue of Wright's library. Among the reasons, she explained, was that there is no single repository of the books. Groups of them are found at Taliesin in Wisconsin, Taliesin West in Arizona, the Avery Library in New York, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Research Center in Oak Park, Illinois; and there are additional collections, such as the "Olgivanna Lloyd Wright Library," which must contain books that had belonged to Wright, but identifying them would be difficult. Moreover, many of Wright's books were dispersed or lost, either before or after his death, and are in none of these collections.
Since knowledge of the books Wright owned or read could be helpful in understanding his intellectual development and the influences on his thought and work, I decided to try to compile as complete a catalogue as possible. In 2018 I returned to Taliesin West to examine and catalogue the books in several collections there, and I obtained information about the books preserved elsewhere. In the meantime, I was going through all of Wright's writings, compiling his references to authors and books, and I have found additional evidence of his readings in other sources.
On the advice of fellow Wright scholars, I decided to produce the project as an online website, rather than a published monograph, so that additions and corrections could be made as new information is discovered. The directors of the Stanford University Library offered to create the website on one of the library's platforms, and for about a year I have been working with library staff to construct the site and enter the data. We are now releasing it to the public, although improvements can no doubt still be made to it. I welcome suggestions from users of the site—whether suggestions about the website itself, or new information on books that Wright owned or read.
Paul V. Turner
Professor of Architectural History, Emeritus
Department of Art & Art History