The President’s War Message

by david on 11 November 2018

Cover of “The President’s War Message”

On hundred years ago today, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, France and Germany signed armistice documents in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiègne, France, bringing the First World War to an end.

Paul Elder & Company published two short books in connection with the War. The first of these, The President’s War Message, is the text of Woodrow Wilson’s address to Congress on 2 April 1917, asking that a state of war be declared between the United States and Germany.

The United States had remained neutral up until then, despite such events as the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Lusitania by German submarines on 7 May 1915, which killed 1,198 people including 128 Americans. Wilson insisted that Germany stop attacks on passenger ships, to which the Germans agreed. Wilson’s reelection in 1916 was attributed partly to his success in keeping the US out of the war. But in January 1917, Great Britain intercepted a German telegram informing Mexico that they would be resuming attacks on passenger ships, and offering to help Mexico reacquire Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Wilson released the telegram to the US public, and used it as justification for going to war. After Germany sank seven American merchant ships, Wilson gave his speech on April 2nd, and Congress declared war on April 6th.

Frontispiece and title page of “The President’s War Message”

Germany had launched the March 1918 “Spring Offensive” in an attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived. They advanced to within 75 miles of Paris, but there the offensive stalled. By summertime, 10,000 American soldiers arrived in France every day. The resulting “Hundred Days Offensive” was the decisive campaign of the war, and by November the Germans sued for peace.

Page 3 of “The President’s War Message”

As Adam Hochschild wrote in the New Yorker on 5 Nov 2018, the war ended as senselessly as it started, with more soldiers perishing on Armistice Day–2,738 killed, 8,206 wounded or missing–than did in Normandy on D-Day, 1944. Though the Armistice was signed at 5am, it would not take effect until 11:11am, and many Allied divisions fought on, trying to gain ground that would be conceded just hours later. The last American died at 10:59am when he charged a German machine-gun crew, and ignored their pleas to stop.

Pages 14-15 of “The President’s War Message”

The human toll of World War I was truly horrific. Ten million men died in combat, with twenty-one million wounded (the “Lost Generation”). Almost eight million civilians were also killed, and dozens if not hundreds of cities and towns in France and Belgium were bombed into dust. The war destroyed Europe’s old order, along with the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires.

My personal wish for all of us: may we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world. Let peace fill the earth as waters fill the sea.

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Drawing Room Plays

by david on 12 August 2018

Cover of “Drawing Room Plays”

Some works deserve to be forgotten, and Grace Luce Irwin’s Drawing Room Plays (1903) is one of these.

Grace Adelaide Luce (1877-1914) grew up in San Diego, and after two years at Stanford University she moved to San Francisco. There she met and married Wallace Irwin, author of Paul Elder’s perhaps best-selling book, Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum. They soon moved to New York City, where Wallace enjoyed success for some years. Grace also became a writer, mostly for magazines, but she also authored several books.

Why should you forget this book? At the turn of the 20th century it was acceptable in the American media to use overt racism in humor, especially towards the Chinese and Japanese. This is a common theme in Wallace Irwin’s work, and sadly, so it was in Grace Irwin’s writing as well. I will spare you the details.

Title page of “Drawing Room Plays”

Grace Irwin died on Long Island, New York in 1914 at the young age of 37. She is buried in San Diego.

The artwork is by an unidentified artist, initials “A. W.” It does not appear to be Audley B. Wells, whose signatures for other Elder works looks very different. I have been unable to conclusively decipher the curious vignette at the center of the title page, but the circular device may be a combination of the letters D R P G L I (Drawing Room Plays Grace Luce Irwin). I don’t know what the red background squiggle means.

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The Boers and the Uitlanders

5 July 2018

Why did Elder & Shepard publish a book about a guerilla war in southern Africa? In 1901 the southern tip of Africa was immersed in a conflict known as the Boer War. The belligerents were the Boers, pastoral farmers who were descendants of the original 17th- and 18th-century Cape Dutch settlers, and the British Empire. […]

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The Abbey Classics

12 January 2018

Paul Elder’s Abbey Classics series comes complete with a little mystery: how many titles were there? Like the Panel Books, Paul Elder contracted The Abbey Classics from another printer, this one presumably in New York City. Publicity for the first two Abbey Classics volumes appeared in August 1907, and for the next two in November. In his “Thoughts For Your Friends” catalog […]

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Happy Holidays from paulelder.org

17 December 2017
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The Panel Books

6 December 2017

The following item appeared in the 7 Sep 1907 edition of The Publishers’ Weekly (an American book-trade journal), page 551 Paul Elder & Company, in connection with Sisley’s, of London, are about to publish a handy volume series of standard works under the general title of The Panel Books. Twenty titles will be ready in September. Sisley’s had issued The Panel Books in the […]

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Impression Classics

30 November 2017

Book series that gather and reprint public domain fiction have a long history. Perhaps the earliest series was Poets of Great Britain Complete from Chaucer to Churchill, founded by British publisher John Bell in 1777. Later British series included Routledge’s Railway Library (1848–99) and the Everyman’s Library (1906-). A well-known American example is the Modern Library (1925-70). Book series were a familiar sight at any […]

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Elizabethan Humours and the Comedy of Ben Jonson

21 November 2017

The introduction to Elizabethan Humours and the Comedy of Ben Jonson begins: “The Stanford English Club issues this little book in connection with, and in commemoration of, the presentation of Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour at Stanford University in March, 1905. “This is one of a series of presentations of old English plays in […]

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Poems

1 September 2017

Paul Elder published a lot of poetry in his career: of the 420 titles on the checklist, at least sixty-one (15%) are poetry. Alas, not much of it is good poetry. (In this Paul Elder was not alone: I have a friend who collects “bad poetry” from across the Arts & Crafts period.) Irene Hardy’s Poems (1902) is […]

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San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire

18 April 2017

One hundred and eleven years ago today, at 5:12 am local time, the great San Francisco earthquake struck. It lasted for 45 seconds, had an estimated magnitude of 7.8, and caused a great deal of damage, not only in San Francisco but up and down the California coast. In San Francisco, however, fire was greater evil. Several […]

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