Thursday, February 19, 2009

Signed by the Author

The last few postings about the inscribed San Marcos in the Desert print brought to mind another important item inscribed to the Martins by their architect, Frank Lloyd Wright: a copy of Wright's 1932 Autobiography. The frontispiece of the book bears the following memorable dedication to Darwin and Isabelle:
To Darwin D. Martin and his wife - hero and heroine of this tale - with esteem - affection and gratitude from their Architect. Frank Lloyd Wright
At the time that Wright's An Autobiography was published, Darwin Martin had to admit that he didn't have six dollars to spare to buy a copy. Wright apparently thought that the Martins deserved one his few complimentary copies in thanks for their long-standing patronage, and sent them one with this personal inscription. Wright was known for buttering-up his supporters, but this particular sentiment rings true. He must have realized that, without the Martins and their financial backing, he wouldn't have received the Larkin Administration building commission, built Taliesin, or published the Wasmuth portfolio. In that sense, Darwin and Isabelle Martin truly were the unsung heroes of Wright's "tale" - his life and work.

The Martins' inscribed copy of An Autobiography resides with an architect and Wright collector in the Pittsburgh area. It is our hope that the book might return to Buffalo eventually, to join our growing collection of rare books and manuscripts, including the inscribed San Marcos print, an original copy of the 1901 Ladies Home Journal with the "Home in a Prairie Town" article, and Darwin Martin's treatise on the Larkin Company cardex system, "The First to Make a Card Ledger" - not to mention the wealth of rare documents held by the University Archives at the University at Buffalo. Such documents add an invaluable dimension to our understanding of the tale of Frank Lloyd Wright, the Martins, and the remarkable products of their association.

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