firm active: 1907-1921

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Writings by William Gray Purcell
The Parabiographies manuscripts (circa 1930s-1950s)

Understanding this view of the Parabiographies

First draft page produced from dictation, annotated by Purcell, ca. late 1930s Sample revisions to secondary first draft by Purcell, ca. late 1930s or early 1940s

Purcell began a commission-by-commission review of his architectural practice in the late 1930s.  This process continued until the late 1950s.  As he developed commentaries on each job, drafts circulated to various others concerned with the work described, principally George Grant Elmslie.  Elmslie annotated pages with his own views and recollections, then returned them to Purcell.  Several revised versions emerged over the passing decades.  Descriptions of later works from the years 1916 to 1921 did not develop past sketchy rough notes for scattered commissions.

Typescript draft page produced by Purcell, circa 1939, and annotated by Elmslie, circa 1940s Revised typescript page, as prepared for distribution to inquiring historians, generated from 1952 to 1957

Not completed formally as an entire work, different fragmentary copies of the drafts exist.  The first--and sequentially most complete--generation was largely completed by the early 1940s, or thereabouts.  The second set of drafts, adjusted to incorporate comments by Elmslie and others, was typed during the 1940s.  These were eventually distributed in part to various architectural historians, particularly David Gebhard as Purcell corresponded with him concerning his doctoral dissertation on the firm and also for the Walker Art Center exhibition of 1953.  Some additional versions concerning individual commissions were typed between 1956 and 1957, mostly to facilitate an effort by Gebhard to publish a monograph on P&E and assist other historians.

In order to present the drafts here as completely as possible, all versions of the Parabiographies have been consulted.  Comments, annotations, and hand editing by Purcell are included where such markings are clear on the original typescripts.  Some manuscript pages contain too many marks or comments for the intent to be discerned clearly; in these cases only the original text is supplied. The latest version for any given commission is usually shown here.

Commentaries for later commissions, post-1916, are few.  Some notes survive which are not attributed to a specific design.  These drafts are in a very incomplete state, containing lacunae for commission numbers, intended additions, and other inserted materials that never materialized.  Those few manuscripts which are legible or contain interesting information are presented here as they appear, gaps and all, for the sake of completeness.

Like many authors, Purcell often used his existing stock of manuscripts for other writings.  Information presented in the Parabiographies is often recast, revised, and augmented in other contexts, particularly for a long series of drafts written to guide David Gebhard through his doctoral thesis.  These drafts appear on this site under Biographical and Historical Research Manuscripts.



research courtesy mark hammons