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About the project

In April, 2017, when I was at Taliesin West to give a talk, I conferred with Margo Stipe, the curator of collections there.  At one point I asked her what kinds of archival material were still at Talesin West, after the bulk of the archive had been transferred to the Avery Library in New York.  Among the items she mentioned was "the Frank Lloyd Wright Library."  It occurred to me that I had never seen a catalog or description of the books Wright had owned, and I asked if one had ever been produced.  Margo said that this had not been done, and explained that it would be a difficult undertaking.  For one thing, the "Frank Lloyd Wright Library" at Taliesin West was only one of several groups of books that had belonged to the architect; others were at Taliesin in Wisconsin, the Avery Library in New York, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Research Center in Oak Park, Illinois.  And there were additional collections, such as the "Olgivanna Lloyd Wright Library," which no doubt contained some books that had originally belonged to Wright; but identifying them would be difficult or impossible.  Moreover, many of Wright's books had been dispersed or lost, either before or after his death, and therefore were in none of these known collections.

Since a knowlege of the books that Wright had owned or read, over the course of his life, could be helpful in understanding the architect's intellectual development and the influences on his thought and his work, I decided to take up the challenge of trying to compile as complete a book catalog as possible.  Margo Stipe helped me to get started by providing several book lists that did exist, as well as other relevant information.  In 2018 I returned to Taliesin West for an extended period to examine and catalog the books in several collections there, including the "Frank Lloyd Wright Library," the "Olgivanna Lloyd Wright Library," and a group of Hillside Home School books, which had come into Wright's possession when he acquired the school's property in the 1910s.

In the meantime I was going through all of Wright's writings, compiling the large number of his references to authors and books he had read over the course of his life—many of which are not represented in any of the collections of his surviving books.  And I have found additional evidence for books Wright read in other sources, such as the writings of his apprentices and acquaintances.  I also decided to include in the project the library of Louis Sullivan, since much of it was apparently accessible to Wright when he worked in Sullivan's office from 1887 to 1893.

The total number of books in the various collections is large.  In the "Frank Lloyd Wright Library" at Taliesin West: about 170 works.  The "Olgivanna Lloyd Wright Library": originally about 1,400 (although many of these no longer survive and are known only from a list of them; and only some of these belonged to Wright).  The Hillside Home School books: about 120.  Books at Taliesin in Wisconsin: about 2,000 (though only a small number of them are likely to have belonged to Wright).  Books at the Frank Lloyd Wright Research Center in Oak Park (including a list of Wright's mother's books): about 200.  Louis Sullivan's books: about 270.  Trying to determine which of these thousands of books were actually owned by Wright or accessible to him; personally examining the ones that survive; cataloguing them; and recording the results in formats suitable for an online database—all of this has been an on-going challenge.

From the beginning of my work on this project, I have conferred with other Wright scholars, who were encouraging and have given me suggestions and advice.  One issue was whether the project should be presented in a traditional monograph or an online database; the consensus was that it should be a database (at least at first), in order to make it widely available to the public, and to allow additions and corrections as more information is discovered.  Then the question was where the database would be hosted.  The most suitable institution was probably the Avery Library, since it now has the bulk of the Wright archive.  The directors there were favorable to the project but decided that they were not able to host the database.  In the meantime, I had been conferring with two staff members of the Stanford University Libraries: Vanessa Kam, director of the Art and Architecture Library; and Glen Worthey, Digital Humanities Librarian.  They became enthusiastic about the project and eventually determined that Stanford would be able to create an online database for it.  On Glen Worthey's departure from Stanford, the principal work of creating a website for the database was assumed by Marie Saldaña, Academic Technology Specialist in the Stanford History Department.  The efforts of these Stanford people have been essential to making the project available to the public.

Users of the website who find errors in it, or have additional information about books that Wright owned or read, are encouraged to contact me.  I will attempt to incorporate these additions or corrections into the database.

Many people have assisted me in this project—among whom are the following.  At Taliesin West: Margo Stipe, Elizabeth Dawsari, and Indira Berndtson.  At Stanford University: Vanessa Kam, Glen Worthey, and  Marie Saldaña.  Media historian Abby Smith Rumsey.  David Bagnall, of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.  Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator, Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.   And Stuart Graff, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.  Among the Wright scholars who have given me new material for the database, or advice and encouragement on the project: Anthony Alofsin, David G. De Long, Kevin and Elaine Harrington, Richard Joncas, Neil Levine, Richard Longstreth, Ken Oshima, Jack Quinan, Lisa Schrenk, and Kathryn Smith.

Communications to me can be sent to my e-mail address:


Paul V. Turner

Professor of Architectural History, Emeritus

Department of Art & Art History

Stanford University