It’s the final week for the exhibition!

You have just a few days left to see my Paul Elder exhibition at the Book Club of California, which closes Monday. Your best bet is to attend Monday night’s program, “The Life, Motto, and Library of William Walker.” Hope to see you there!

Case 2, rear


There’s still time to see the Paul Elder exhibition!

My exhibition of Paul Elder books is on display at the Book Club of California through February 12. You may make an appointment by calling 415.781.7532, or by attending one of the in-person events (free of charge, but registration required). The Club is located at 312 Sutter, Suite 500, in San Francisco, conveniently located right next to the Sutter-Stockton garage.

Case 1, front
Case 1, rear
Case 2, front
Case 2, rear

A Literary Life in Seven Bookstores

I was honored and delighted to accept the Book Club of California’s invitation to give the 2023 Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture on the History of the Book Trade in California and the West, which I entitled “Paul Elder: A Literary Life in Seven Bookstores.” I spoke in San Francisco at the BCC headquarters on November 6, and in Pasadena at the Blinn House on November 8. You can find a recording of my Pasadena lecture on Youtube here.

Here are some photos from the San Francisco talk:

I was clearly animated about something.

Two honored guests! Paul Elder’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter: Jean Rodgers, and her daughter Meg Rodgers.

With my friend Isak Lindenauer, who generously loaned the art objects on display in the exhibition
The lovely keepsake printed by Andre Chaves at the Clinker Press in Portland, Oregon.

And from the Pasadena talk:

Hold that date! Upcoming lecture and exhibition!

I am delighted to say that the Book Club of California has invited me as their speaker for the 2023 Kenneth Karmiole Endowed Lecture on the History of the Book Trade in California and the West. My talk is “Paul Elder: A Literary Life in Seven Bookstores,” and will be presented in person and online on Monday 6 November at 6:00pm in San Francisco, and in person on Wednesday 8 November at 6:00pm in Pasadena. Both lectures will be preceded by a reception. I would be honored if you would join me.

If you attend the San Francisco lecture, you’ll also be able to view my exhibition on Paul Elder & Company, which opens 6 November and will be on display through 12 February 2024. The exhibit will include many of Elder publishing themes, including Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts decoration, San Francisco and the West, travel literature, children’s books, Japanese art, ephemera, and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Both the lectures and the zoom are free, but require registration. You can find more information, including the registration links, at the Book Club of California website. Mark your calendars!

A Cycle of Gleanings

Green leather cover of “A Cycle of Gleanings”

One of my latest Paul Elder acquisitions is A Cycle of Gleanings (1909), by Ella Blake Stone. It joins a small stack of other Elders where the copy I own is the only copy I’ve ever seen, even after thirty years of searching. The text is a compilation of quotations, one for each day of the year. Books of quotations were a time-honored Paul Elder device—they must have sold well because he kept publishing them—but they can hardly be called great literature.

The title page reads “A Cycle of Gleanings – from El Labla Kest – One for each day in the year,” but “El Labla Kest One” is simply “Ella Blake Stone” with the spaces in different locations. The printing on the frontispiece tissue guard reads “Aloha Oe e Ke Onaona Noho Ika Lipo” (“farewell to thee, the charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers”), which are words from the well-known Hawaiian song “Aloha ‘Oe,” written by Princess (later Queen) Lili’uokalani in 1878.

Printed on a high-quality English rag paper named “Arnold Unbleached” with a green leather cover embossed in gold, it’s an attractive and well-made book. The book is undoubtedly a vanity publication, given the limited press run of 100 copies and the use of expensive paper: Elder did not lavish such paper on his ordinary trade books. The cover decoration and interior borders are designed by Harold Sichel, one of Elder’s favorite artists. The border on the verso is a mirror-image of the recto (including a mirror-image of Sichel’s HS monogram). The borders were reused by Elder in 1910 for Lillyan Shaffner’s Love & Friendship.

Frontispiece of “A Cycle of Gleanings,” with a portrait of Ella Blake Stone (1837-1919)

Ella Blake Gordon Stone (28 Jun 1837, Louisville, Kentucky – 28 Dec 1919, Santa Barbara, California), was the oldest of six children of John Gardner Gordon and Sarah Reinhard. When she was seven years old, her father moved the family to Muscatine, Iowa. In 1857, she married William Reade Stone (1827-1915) in Muscatine. They lived in Duluth, Minnesota for many years before moving to Santa Barbara, California, where they died and are buried.

Everything so far would make a nice uneventful story of a handsome book… if it weren’t for my discovery of the other book that Ella Stone wrote.

Stone was also the author of O-So-Ge-To the Hopi Maiden, and Other Stories, published by W. B. Conkey Co. in 1907. This book makes for excruciating reading. It is a collection of eight children’s stories that range from patronizing and misogynistic to unapologetically racist. The title story is a sadly typical one from a white author about native peoples: a young Hopi maiden named O-Se-Ge-To is left in the desert as a sacrifice to the “Fiery Spirit” so that desperately needed rain will come. She is found by Padre Esteven (“blessed be his memory”), who is leading a group of priests into the desert to Christianize the Indians, and they baptize her into the Church and rename her Eufrasie. After being taken to Mission Santa Barbara in California, she falls in love with a sailor named Miguel. They are soon married, but he is drowned in a storm at sea. Eufrasie dies of grief after tossing her silver Hopi bracelets into a cauldron that is forging a new bell for the Mission.

The truth, of course, is that the Hopi do not practice human sacrifice, and that as early as 1540, the Spanish were brutally persecuting and sometimes enslaving the Hopi, both for maintaining their own religious customs and for resisting conversion. This eventually prompted the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, one of the few instances where native tribes were able to successfully evict the colonizers. Paul Elder was not immune from publishing material now viewed as racist, but all the same I am happy that it was not he who published this highly offensive book.