Merry Christmas from

by david on 23 December 2014

Paul Elder's holiday catalog for December 1917.

Paul Elder’s holiday catalog for December 1917.

From all of us at, have a happy, healthy and safe holiday, whichever version you celebrate.



by david on 7 December 2014

Cover of "Bamboo"

Cover of “Bamboo”

In February 1912, the Manchu Dynasty, rulers of imperial China since 1644, collapsed and was replaced by the fledgling Republic of China. Watching with great interest from Chicago was Lyon Sharman, an American woman who grew up in Hangzhou, 100 miles southwest of Shanghai. In her dedication to Bamboo, Tales of the Orient-Born, which Paul Elder published in 1914, Lyon clearly approves of the change in government:

If one might presume to dedicate so slight a book to a great country, this would be dedicated to China—the land of the author’s earliest recollection and of abiding sentiment, a nation whose present renaissance commands the admiration and solicitude of one who was born to lover her.

Title page of "Bamboo"

Title page of “Bamboo”

The stories in Bamboo are intended for young readers. The characters reflect Sharman’s own experience: Chinese growing up in China, Americans growing up in China, “American” teenagers newly returned to the States who feel like foreigners. The first story, “A Little Daughter of the Gospel,” is clearly autobiographical.

Lyon Sharman (14 Sep 1872–21 Jul 1957) was born Abbie Mary Lyon in Hangzhou, China, the daughter of American missionaries. While a teenager the family returned to the United States, where she attended high school and earned a BA from the University of Wooster in Ohio. She attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, intending to join her father as a missionary, but met and married Henry Burton Sharman (1865-1953). While working towards her Ph.D. in literature from the University of Chicago, Abbie wrote book reviews for the Chicago Evening Post under the byline “Lyon Sharman.” She later branched out into fiction, poetry, biography and drama. Abbie and Henry spent three years in China while he taught at Peking University; she continued to write. They retired to southern California in the early 1930s and lived there for the rest of their lives.

Abbie Lyon Sharman (1872-1957)

Abbie Lyon Sharman (1872-1957)


Recipe For a Happy Life

8 November 2014

Written by Margaret of Navarre in the year 1500: Three ounces are necessary, first of Patience, then of Repose & Peace; of Conscience a pound entire is needful; of Pastimes of all sorts, too, should be gathered as much as the hand can hold; Of Pleasant Memory & of Hope three good drachms there must be at least. […]

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The Critic in the Occident

31 October 2014

What you bring away with you from a tour of Europe depends largely upon your reading. If through great writers you know intimately the history, art and architecture of a country, you will find that your travels serve mainly to stamp indelibly upon the memory many of the impressions formed from the books you have […]

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The Critic in the Orient

24 October 2014

This book of impressions of the Far East is called The Critic in the Orient, because the writer for over thirty years has been a professional critic of new books–one trained to get at the best in all literary works and reveal it to the reader. This critical work would have been deadly, save for […]

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Slumber Sea Chanteys

26 September 2014

Slumber Sea Chanteys (1910) was the only sheet music Paul Elder ever published (there are a few pages of music in Knight of the Burning Pestle). It is a selection of children’s lullabies on nautical themes. It is also the first Paul Elder I ever bought, though I only realized it five years later when […]

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The True Historie of the Knyght of the Burning Pestle

8 September 2014

In March 1903, the English Club of Stanford University performed a production of “The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” an early 17th-century pastiche play by the English poet and dramatist Francis Beaumont. The English Club performed the work at both Stanford and UC Berkeley, and went so far as to write a short book about it. That […]

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The Auto Guest Book

1 September 2014

On an inventive twist from a guest book designed for the guest bedroom, here is a guest book designed for one’s automobile. The Auto Guest Book was published in 1906 on the heels of the success of the early Cynic’s Calendars, with the illustrations and aphorisms by the team of Ethel Grant (1876?-1940) and Richard Glaenzer (1876-1937). In […]

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San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See It

27 August 2014

After Paul Elder opened his bookshop in 1898, it is perhaps surprising that he waited fourteen years to publish a book about San Francisco. Maybe it just took him that long to find the right author. Helen Throop Purdy’s comprehensive guide to the City, San Francisco — As It Was, As It Is, And How To See […]

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Robert Harlan (1929-2014)

24 August 2014

Today I pause to remember Robert Harlan, professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Bancroft Library. He died on April 8th at the age of 84. He was an expert on the 19th-century San Francisco printing industry and the Bay Area fine-printing movement of the mid-20th century. He published several books, including a long […]

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