The Soul of an Artist

Cover of "The Soul of an Artist"
Cover of “The Soul of an Artist”

The Soul of an Artist was published in Milan in 1895 under the title Anima Sola, meaning “lonely soul.” It’s an apt title for Neera, whose melancholy childhood set the tone for much of her writings.

Neera was the pseudonym of Anna Zuccari Radius (1846-1918). She lived her entire life in Milan, Italy. Anna’s mother died when she was ten, whereupon she was sent to live with her father’s two unmarried sisters, strict and unsmiling. In 1871 Neera married Milanese banker Emilio Radius; they had two children.

Neera’s output was prodigious: twenty-two novels, eight volumes of short stories, ten volumes of moralistic essays and two of poetry. According to Catherine Ramsey-Portolano, of the American University of Rome

Neera’s protagonists are women struggling to fulfill the traditional roles of wife, mother and daughter in fin de siècle Italian society… The polemical and engaged nature of these writings, in which Neera defends maternity as woman’s highest mission in life, is evident from the titles chosen for two of the volumes, Battaglie per un’idea (1898) and Le idee di una donna (1904). Although Neera defined herself an antifeminist in her essays and was not supportive of the feminist cause, feminists of the period, such as Ersilia Majno and Sibilla Aleramo, recognized the importance of her role as woman writer and the feminist nature of her narrative work.

Title page of “The Soul of an Artist”
Neera (1846-1918)

Generally speaking, Paul Elder preferred to publish original works (notwithstanding the occasional series of classic literature, such as Impression Classics, Panel Books or Abbey Classics). Thus a book like his 1905 publication of The Soul of an Artist, as a previously published work, is uncommon in the canon.

The authorized translator was Miss Elizabeth Livingstone Murison of San Francisco, whose work was called out by an article in the San Francisco Call of 18 February 1906.

Foreword of “The Soul of an Artist”
Translator’s Preface of “The Soul of an Artist”
Page 1 of “The Soul of an Artist”
Page 117 of “The Soul of an Artist”

2. “San Francisco Woman in Translator’s Role“, San Francisco Call, vol 99 no 80, 18 February 1906.

An Alphabet of History

Cover of "An Alphabet of History"
Cover of “An Alphabet of History”

In 1905, Paul Elder published Wilbur Nesbit’s An Alphabet of History, a large-format volume of verse for adults. In contrast to some other humorous verse featured here, Nesbit’s poetry has survived the last century in fine shape to be appreciated by the modern reader.

Wilbur D. Nesbit was born in Xenia, Ohio in 1871. He spent most of his career in journalism, working his way up from small-town newspaper reporter to editor at the Chicago Tribune and then the Chicago Evening Post. Along the way he began composing poetry. Nesbit was also in demand as a toastmaster, and was a long-time member of the “Forty Club,” a Chicago version of San Francisco’s Bohemian Club. Nesbit wrote a history of the Forty Club in 1912.

Title page of "An Alphabet of History"
Title page of “An Alphabet of History”

According to The National Magazine of May 1917, what Wilbur Nesbit was best known for at the time was a patriotic poem “Your Flag and My Flag,” often recited at political conventions and Congressional sessions, and which has “a ring of national sentiment that rivals the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ itself.”

The delightful drawings are by the artist Ellsworth Young (1866-1952), who in addition to book and magazine illustrations, was a noted landscape painter and poster artist. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later worked for the WPA.

Wilbur NesbitReferences: The National Magazine, Boston, May 1917, p304-5.

Frontispiece of "An Alphabet of History"
Frontispiece of “An Alphabet of History”
"An Alphabet of History," letter K
“An Alphabet of History,” letter K
"An Alphabet of History," letter S
“An Alphabet of History,” letter S
"An Alphabet of History," letter Z
“An Alphabet of History,” letter Z