Yosemite Legends

by david on 29 August 2010

Cover of "Yosemite Legends". The same binding in green is known to exist, but is much less common.

Standard red cover of “Yosemite Legends”

One of the most collectible titles in the Paul Elder catalog, Yosemite Legends (1904) is also one of the best illustrated. Thirteen original tonalist illustrations by Florence Lundborg, combined with Native American themes makes this a very attractive book indeed. The standard issue has a red cloth cover on boards, but a scarcer green cover was also published.

Florence Lundborg (1871-1949) was a native of San Francisco. She studied with Arthur Mathews at the School of Design in San Francisco, and won a gold medal in the life class at the Mark Hopkins Institute. She also spent several years at the Whistler Academy in Paris (1897-1900). Lundborg was a member of Les Jeunes (“the kids”), the eclectic, bohemian group of writers and artists involved with Gelett Burgess’s magazine The Lark, for which she illustrated several covers and posters. The Lark was published by William Doxey, the bookseller for whom Elder worked before striking out on his own. Lundborg is also known for her pen-and-ink illustrations for Doxey’s edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Alternate green cover of "Yosemite Legends"

Alternate green cover of “Yosemite Legends”

On 18 October 1904, Paul Elder hosted a soirée in celebration of the publication of Yosemite Legends,  including an exhibition of Lundborg’s original artwork for the book (see photograph below). I wonder where all those images are now? It’s all too possible that they were lost in the earthquake and fire of 1906. Sadly, her plates are now known to have been lost in the 1906 earthquake and fire.

In contrast to Lundborg’s notoriety, the author Bertha Smith has faded into obscurity—I can find no information about her at all. If you know anything about Ms Smith, I would be most grateful.

Bertha Henry Smith (1872-1922) was a Los Angeles-based magazine and literary writer, born in Kansas to a grocery and produce dealer named William Smith from Pennsylvania. (Many thanks for Kol Shaver for this information on Smith.)

Title page of "Yosemite Legends"

Title page of “Yosemite Legends”

"Yosemite Legends," page 3

“Yosemite Legends,” page 3

Plate from "Yosemite Legends". The woman is calling for her lost lover Koosookah

Plate from “Yosemite Legends”. The woman is calling for her lost lover Koosookah

"Pohono, Spirit of the Evil Wind," from "Yosemite Legends"

“Pohono, Spirit of the Evil Wind,” from “Yosemite Legends”

Invitation to the opening of Florence Lundborg's original artwork for "Yosemite Legends," 18 Oct 1904

Invitation to the opening of Florence Lundborg’s original artwork for “Yosemite Legends,” 18 Oct 1904

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