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Wright and some of his books at Taliesin, 1940s

This photograph of Wright and his wife, taken by Melvin E. Diemer, is in the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS-3976; image slightly cropped). The society's records state that it was taken in 1936, in the living room at Taliesin, but actually it must have been taken after 1940 (see below) and in Wright's bedroom (as indicated by the neckties hanging in the closet at the left, and confirmed by Kyle Dockery, Collections Coordinator at Taliesin).

Examination of a high-resolution scan of the photograph's negative has allowed the identification of many of the books on the shelves behind Wright and his wife. Surprisingly, the majority of the works were not previously known to have belonged to Wright, as they are not in any of the surviving collections of his books. This reveals the large extent to which Wright's books (even those he kept in his own bedroom at Taliesin) were dispersed or lost, either during his lifetime or after his death—thereby suggesting that Wright's library was much larger than has usually been thought.

About seventy of the books on the shelves have visible writing on their spines. The writing on forty-four of these is legible enough to allow identification of the works. The number of identifiable works (several of which have multiple volumes) is twenty. Of these twenty works, fifteen are not in any of the surviving collections of Wright's books—and were not previously known to have belonged to the architect.

The identifiable works are listed below, with their dates of publication. Only two of these works were published before 1925; four were published from 1925 to 1928; ten were published in the 1930s (mostly in the late 1930s); one was published in 1940, and one possibly in 1941. This shows that the books Wright kept close at hand, in his bedroom, were mostly recent works (in contrast to the bulk of his library, which contained many older books)—which is not surprising, since it is known that Wright kept up with current publications and often purchased, or was given, new books on subjects that interested him. The photograph was therefore probably taken in the early 1940s. (If it had been later, there would no doubt have been books with later publication dates.)

In this list of the identifiable works, those with asterisks are not found in any of the surviving collections of Wright's books.
*Armstrong, Hamilton, We or They (New York: Macmillan, 1937).
*Benchley, Robert, After 1903—What? (New York: Harper, 1938).
*Brownell, Baker, The New Universe (New York: Van Nostrand, 1926).
Casanova, Jacques, Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 12 vols (New York: Aventuros, 1925). Currently at Taliesin West.
*Cohn, David L., Picking America's Pocket (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1936).
Erixon, Sigurd, Svenska Kulturbilder, 12 vols (Stockholm, 1934-38). Currently at Taliesin West.
Guthrie, Thomas, The City: its sins and sorrows... (London: Isbister, 1884). Still at Taliesin today.
*Keyserling, Hermann, The Travel Diary of a Philosopher, vol. 2 (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1936).
*Kipling, Rudyard, Just So Stories (first published in 1912; this may be a later edition).
Lehmann, Walter, Aus den Pyramidenstädten in Alt-Mexiko (Berlin: Hobbing, 1933). Still at Taliesin.
*MacLeish, Archibald, Land of the Free (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1938).
*MacLeish, Archibald, Panic, a Play in Verse (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1935).
*Macself, A. J., A Concise Dictionary of Gardening (Garden City Publishing Co., 1940).
*Moore, George, A Story-teller's Holiday, 2 vols (London: Heinemann, 1928).
*Ortega y Gasset, José, The Revolt of the Masses (first published in English in 1932).
*Sandburg, Carl, The People, Yes (New York, Harcourt Brace, 1936).
Woollcott, Alexander, Woollcott's Second Reader, 2 vols (New York: Viking, 1937). One of the volumes is still at Taliesin.
*Zola, Emile, Germinal. (It's not known which edition of Zola's novel this is.)
In addition, there is a book entitled The Way Out. Several works with this title were published in the 1930s and early 1940s—the best known being by Earl Browder, published in 1941.

Paul V. Turner
April 2021