The systematic study of the mesomorphic phase properties of synthetic and biologically derived lipids began some 30 years ago. In the past decade, interest in this area has grown enormously. As a result, there exists a wealth of information on lipid phase behavior, but unfortunately these data have, until now, been scattered throughout the literature in a variety of books, proceedings and journals. The data have recently been compiled in a centralized database with a view to providing ready access to same and to the appropriate literature. The compilation facilitates review of what has thus far been accomplished and highlights what remains to be done in this active research area. As such, it represents a convenient summary of the existing data which, when evaluated, will enable us to identify where deficits exist in the data, to reveal the fundamental physicochemical principles upon which lipid phase behavior is based and to understand more completely lipid phase relations in biological, reconstituted and formulated systems. The compilation consists of a tabulation of all known mesomorphic and polymorphic phase transition temperatures and enthalpy changes for synthetic and biologically-derived lipids in the dry and in the partially and fully hydrated states. Also included is the effect on these thermodynamic values of pH, and of salt and metal ion concentration and other additives such as proteins, drugs, etc. The methods used in making the measurements and the experimental conditions are reported. Bibliographic information includes complete literature referencing and list of authors. As of this writing, the database is current through June, 1990 and contains in excess of 9500 records. Each record contains 28 fields. Here, we describe how the database originated, its scope and contents, data abstraction procedures, and issues relating to mesophase and lipid nomenclature, data analysis and evaluation, and database maintenance and distribution.