Skip to content Skip to navigation

Louis Sullivan's books

Wright was hired by Louis Sullivan in 1887, quickly became one of his most productive employees, and stayed in his office until 1893.  Sullivan, who like Wright was an avid reader, had a large library, especially of architectural books, and many of these were kept in the Adler and Sullivan office, on the sixteenth floor of the Auditorium Building Tower in Chicago.  A floor plan of the office, published in 1890, shows a wall of book cases in the "Consultation Room."[1]  This was no doubt the largest collection of architectural books that Wright had access to, on a daily basis, up to this point in his life.  He later recalled that he and Sullivan often discussed books––books on all subjects, not just architecture.  He said that Sullivan "adored Whitman, as I did"; that Sullivan gave him "Spencer's Synthetic Philosophy . . . to take home and read"; that Sullivan read to him from his own essay "Inspiration"; and that Sullivan often quoted from Shakespeare.[2]

In 1909 Sullivan, in financial straits, had to put many of his personal possessions up for sale, and an auction was held, with a catalogue of his "household effects, library, oriental rugs, paintings, etc."[3]  The section of the auction catalogue that lists his books has two parts, "Architectural Books" (about 120 titles, not all of which are actually architectural) and other books (about 150 titles).  This database includes the books on architecture, as well as those on related subjects that could have interested Wright—but only those that were published before 1894.  (After Wright left Sullivan's office in 1893 he had little contact with him for many years, so only the earlier books are relevant here.) Several of the works listed here may not be the actual books that were in Sullivan’s library (when the identity of a book was not clear in the auction catalogue and had to be guessed at).  In these cases, clicking on the book title produces information that includes an explanation of the uncertainty, or gives the wording that was in the auction catalogue.

View a list of books in this collection

[1] "New offices of Adler and Sullivan, Architects, Chicago," Engineering and Building Record, 7 June 1890, p. 5.

[2] Frank Lloyd Wright, An Autobiography (London, New York Toronto: Longmans, Green and Company, 1932), p.102.  Genius an the Mobocracy (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1949), p. 9.

[3] "Catalogue at Auction, At Our Salesrooms, No. 185 Wabash Avenue, Monday, Nov. 29 [1909], 10:30 A.M.  Household Effects, Library, Oriental Rugs, Paintings, Etc.  Of Mr. Louis Sullivan, the Well-Known Chicago Architect.  At Unreserved Sale.  Williams, Barker & Severn Co., Auctioneers."  Copy seen at Burnham and Ryerson Library, Chicago.