by david on 1 September 2017

Cover of "Poems"

Cover of “Poems”

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 likely a vanity publication, a limited edition of 300 printed by Charles A. Murdock. (As we shall see below, half of the edition was lost in a fire.) The binding and paper are of good quality, and the typography is typical of the period: crisp typeface but a small font, leaving excessive white space around the edges of the page. The author’s name is consistently printed as “Irenè Hardy”: note the odd use of the grave accent, which in French would normally be “Irène.” I have always assumed this was a typographical error by Murdock, but it’s possible Hardy insisted on the unusual spelling. (Hardy was not French; she was born in Ohio.)

Title page of "Poems"

Title page of “Poems”

Although Hardy’s verses may no longer be remembered, since her 1922 death Stanford University has held an Irene Hardy Poetry Contest (now called the “Clarence Urmy-Irene Hardy Prize for Poetry”).

The following obituary of Irene Hardy is from The Stanford Illustrated Review, Volume 23, Issue 9, June 1922, p467. “A little book of her verse” refers to Poems.

Irene Hardy, a student at Stanford from 1892 to 1895 and a member of the english department faculty from 1894 to 1901, died June 4 at her home, 453 Melville Avenue, Palo Alto, following an attack of pneumonia. She was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, eighty-one years ago [22 July 1841] and for the last fifteen years had been totally blind. In spite of her handicap, she continued to write, publishing verse in the “Sunset” and other periodicals. To the last she retained the admiration and devotion of her former pupils and associates, both of Stanford and the Oakland High School, where she taught for twelve years before coming to Stanford. She began teaching at 16 years of age and alter taught in Antioch, Iowa, Preparatory School. In 1861, the opening year of the Civil War, she entered Antioch College, of which Horace Mann was first president. Because of failing health, she came to California in 1871 and remained here until here death. Miss Hardy was widely known as a poet. A little book of her verse was published in 1902 in San Francisco. Half of the edition was later destroyed in a bookstore fire and the remaining volumes were taken up by students. Among the poems included in the volume are “Ole for Forefather’s Day,” “1887,” “Ariel and Caliban,” “A Wedding Day Gallop,” and “Palo Alto Hills.” Her work later appeared in “The Overland Monthly,” “Sunset” and other periodicals. She was a pioneer in the educational field in California and had a lasting influence on the teaching of composition and literature.

Pages 12-13 of "Poems"

Pages 12-13 of “Poems”



San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire

by david on 18 April 2017

Cover of "San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire"

Cover of “San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire”

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 small fires, burning uncontrollably due to ruptured water mains, gradually merged, and over the course of three days destroyed about 80% of the city. Almost everything east of Van Ness Avenue was lost. San Francisco had suffered many fires in its history, but this was the Great Calamity, the dividing line between Old San Francisco and New San Francisco.

The earthquake and fire was one of the first large-scale disasters covered thoroughly by photographers, and a large number of books were rushed to print soon afterwards. Paul Elder published only two: The Vanished Ruin Era, and Charles Keeler’s San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire (1906). Keeler writes in his usual florid style, including a moving dedication that dreams of a quick renaissance: “Hail, city of yesterday and tomorrow! I salute thee reborn, rejuvenated, casting the slough that unworthily envisaged thee, rising out of thy burned self to a more fair, more glorious realization of thy promise and thy destiny!” By 1909, the downtown area was mostly rebuilt, and Paul Elder had reopened a bookstore around the corner from his original location.

Title page of "San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire"

Title page of “San Francisco Through Earthquake and Fire”

The book was published in brown wraps with an uncredited illustration of downtown San Francisco. The viewer is looking south on Kearny towards the intersection of Market Street. The Call Building (which survived, and is now called the Central Tower) is in white, at the corner of Market and Third.

The fold-out frontispiece showing the fire at its height

The fold-out frontispiece showing the fire at its height



Page 1

Page 1, “The Earthquake”

Plate X: The Old Palace Hotel succumbs to the fire

The Old Palace Hotel succumbs to the fire

Ruins of City Hall

Ruins of City Hall

Page 7

Page 7, “The First Day of the Fire”

Page 36

Page 36, “The Refugees”


Ruth Gordon (1933-2016)

31 July 2016

Today I mark with sadness the passing of Ruth Gordon, from whom I learned most of what I know about Paul Elder. Ruth’s 1977 Ph.D. thesis, Paul Elder: Bookseller-Publisher (1897-1917): A Bay Area Reflection, from my alma mater of UC Berkeley, was never far from my side during my initial years of research. Indeed, I can […]

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Errors of Thought

13 April 2016

This book is surely the strangest that Paul Elder ever published. It is the antithesis of the attractive, well-printed, easily-read giftable volume that was the Elder specialty. Without a doubt a vanity publication, Errors of Thought in Science, Religion and Social Life (1911) is a long, rambling, incoherent screed on education, science, history, religion, and politics. It’s also […]

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The Universal Order

19 March 2016

Friederika Quitman was born in 1844 at Monmouth, her family’s mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. She was the youngest daughter of General John A. Quitman and Eliza Turner Quitman, both of whom died when she was a teenager. She and her siblings inherited the estate, but it was attacked in 1862 by Union forces and the furnishings were […]

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Sonnets of Spinsterhood

21 February 2016

In 1915, the poet Snow Langley was 36 years old and unmarried: a “spinster” in the thankfully now-obsolete parlance. Spinning wool was typically the job of unmarried women, and spinster was used in legal documents as early as the 1600s to denote an unmarried woman who was likely to stay that way. One might think, then, […]

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PPIE Ephemera

14 February 2016

In addition to his books, Paul Elder & Co. produced a large amount of ephemera: greeting cards, postcards, catalogs, bookmarks, etc. Here is a small sampling of ephemera featuring the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

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The Fourth-Dimensional Reaches of the Exposition

7 February 2016

In the 19th century, mathematicians such as Lagrange and Hamilton began exploring fourth dimensional space. In his 1888 book A New Era of Thought, mathematician and science fiction author Charles Howard Hinton coined the term tesseract for the fourth-dimensional analog of a three-dimensional cube. (The term was famously borrowed in 1963 by Madeleine L’Engle in A Wrinkle In Time.) […]

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Holland — An Historical Essay

1 February 2016

From what source did the forefathers of modern America acquire the high ideals of government and right living that made the American Republic first a possibility, and finally a proved realization? … One nation, and one only, in the whole of Western Europe, at the time of the founding of the New England Colonies, embodied […]

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Little Bronze Playfellows

24 January 2016

In Little Bronze Playfellows (1915), author Stella Perry creates fanciful children’s stories based on several of the bronze statues of children scattered about the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts. It is one of a dozen books issued by Paul Elder during 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The bronze boys and girls are all gamboling about while perfectly naked. […]

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