A Look at the Titles in Famous Authors’ Libraries

Since we discovered an ongoing crowdsource project called Legacy Libraries, we haven’t been able to tear our eyes away from it. The organization gathers information about the libraries of historical people — authors, artists, scientists, and more. By compiling data from bibliographies, auction catalogs, library holdings, manuscript lists, wills and probate inventories, and from the personal verification of extant copies, Legacy Libraries is able to conjure a snapshot of the titles resting on famous bookshelves.

The group started out reconstructing the library of Thomas Jefferson in 2007, which has since been handed over to librarians at his Monticello estate. Since then, the database has expanded to include everyone imaginable, like Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe (at one point she was reading How to Eat Your Way to Glowing Health, Why I Am Not a Christian, and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment) and Tupac (who had a thing for books about psychics and enjoyed Henry Miller and Anais Nin).

We imagined the bookshelves of well-known authors also contained some fascinating reads, and we were right. Click through to see what books your favorite writers curled up with, in many cases offering an interesting view into their personal lives and mindset. Head to Legacy Libraries where you can create an account to see if your own library matches that of any famous faces.

Oscar Wilde

Always an outspoken eccentric, The Picture of Dorian Gray author Oscar Wilde enjoyed reading about those who also marched to the beat of their own drummer. His 1893 copy of Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People and a 1927 edition of The Lives of the Painters, Sculptors and Architects proves it. His time at Trinity College studying Greek literature is evident from the number of Grecian and classic works on his shelf. Wilde’s navigation — personal and artistic — through Victorian values may have something to do with Psychopathia Sexualis and a title about “sexual inversion.”