Donald Judd’s personal library of 13,004 books located in La Mansana de Chinati, his home and studio in Marfa, Texas is now accessible online. The library database is the result of an ambitious process, which took more than 3,500 hours of work and led to the cataloguing and photography of the collection from October 2008 through January 2010.
A library offers a portrait of its collector, in this case Donald Judd. The idiosyncrasies of the collection — its subject matter and arrangement—offer insight into the private realm of the reader, the range of Judd’s interests over time and the combination of philosophies, sciences and cultural influences he referenced. Spanning over 40 years of active collecting, the library shows a breadth of knowledge that is remarkably diverse and eclectic.
Visitors to the website will be able to view not only the floor plan, bookcases, shelves, and books, but also each title’s reference, including its Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH), and information about where to find it at a location near the users’ home. This achievement provides new access to the artist’s personal holdings and a powerful tool for researchers and the general public to deepen their understanding of his contributions to the art of the 20th Century.
The online portal presents the books precisely as they are in the library. Utilizing a program and browser designed specifically for this project, visitors to the site will begin the virtual tour by viewing a floor plan of the artist’s two-room Marfa library, with the ability to browse its 96 bookcases, which include books on subjects as varied as 20th Century Art, Norse Sagas, and Physics. Moreover, visitors can also view the spines of each book exactly as they sit on the shelves and can select any book to view its particulars, including basic information such as the title, author, and issue date, as well as details like the binding, physical description, and Dewey Classification.
Although the Judd Library is not a lending institution, the website does allow visitors to locate any book on the shelf at a lending library near their current geographic location.
And finally, visitors will have the ability to explore the books included in the Judd library using a more standard search function including criteria such as the title, author, publisher, subject headings, language, and the ISBN.
The organization of the library reflects Judd’s sensitivity to geography and understanding of the development of the arts, languages, and sciences across different ages and cultures. As evidenced by the sheer breadth of the collection, Judd valued books both for their ability to share knowledge and as beautiful objects to be treated with respect. The library covers 576 shelves containing 13,004 books, of which 10,718 are unique pieces and 2,286 are duplicates. The topics are wide-ranging, with 1,060 pertaining to exhibitions, 3,129 art books (including 100 catalogues), and 1,455 focusing on architecture. At least 40 languages are represented throughout the collection.
The library is located in La Mansana de Chinati, also known as “The Block”, Judd’s former studio and residence in Marfa, and the site of some of his first large-scale architectural projects and installations. It measures one full city block and incorporates a historic World War I military workshop. The artist first used The Block in 1973 when he rented one of the two former army buildings and began installing the property with his art. One year later, he bought the entire property, which also includes a rectangular two-story home, formerly the offices of the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster Corps. The Block is enclosed with adobe walls, which reference local construction techniques, as does the interior courtyard, which is landscaped with cactus gardens and Judd furniture. Also on the property, and in addition to the library, are a unique site-specific U-shaped work, a Judd-designed swimming pool and private garden as well as two large, permanently installed spaces that house the artist’s studio.