In Western music, more books have been written on the organ than any other instrument. This summer exhibition, Pipes on Paper, open on Monday, July 15, highlights a selection of books on this grand and artful instrument from the James L. Wallmann Collection. In sum, it offers a survey from 1698 to 1923 on the history of organs and organbuilding. These twenty-four books not only offer a glimpse into the technical innovations of the organ during these centuries, but also a view of the instrument’s variety across different regions and cultures.

The earliest book is Andreas Werckmeister’s treatise on organ testing, a work known to J. S. Bach. L’art du facteur d’orgues (“The art of the organbuilder”) (1766–78) by François Bedos de Celles, a French Benedictine monk, is the most magnificent book on the organ ever published and one that, throughout history, has helped many organbuilders build organs.

Other titles on display from the 1700s and 1800s describe organs and organbuilding in their diverse array in Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Italy, and the United States. Books from nineteenth-century England by F. H. Sutton, John Norbury, and Arthur George Hill illustrate English and continental organ cases. The most recent publications on display are two pamphlets from 1923, which represent two very different movements in the organ world – a little flyer on a proposed restoration of Arp Schnitger’s 1693 organ in Hamburg and one of the few surviving copies of a booklet from Estey Organ Co. promoting its innovative New luminous stop console.

James L. Wallmann has lived in the Dallas area since 2006. He has degrees in music and law from Brigham Young University and Georgetown University, respectively; and has been collecting books on the organ for almost fifty years. Mr. Wallmann’s collection contains over 3,000 books and pamphlets with an emphasis in these five areas: important books on organbuilding and the history of the organ; books in Dutch; books about Gottfried Silbermann and his organs; reference books and collected works about the organ; and rare and unusual books about the organ.


Pipes on Paper: the Wallmann Collection of Books on the Organ is on view July 15 – August 2 at the Hawn Gallery, located inside the Hamon Arts Library on SMU campus. The Library is open during summer hours, Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm, and closed weekends. For more information, please contact Hawn Gallery at hawngallery@smu.edu or 214-768-1383.

Featured image: Old organ at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, illustration from John Norbury (1824–1911), The box of whistles | an illustrated book on organ cases: with notes on organs at home and abroad. London: Bradbury, Agnew, & Co., 1877.