Welcome to the new paulelder.org

Today I am launching the newly-redesigned paulelder.org. I have added several new features, including a blog, biographies of notable people and frequently asked questions. Please let me know what you think!

Categories FAQ

Do any of Elder’s bookstores still exist?

No. However, four buildings that once housed Elder’s stores still exist. Here are the details:

  • Mills Building, northeast corner of Bush & Montgomery, San Francisco. Elder’s shop was a room on the mezzanine. The building was burned out in the 1906 earthquake and fire, but the shell was saved and the interior rebuilt. The Mills Building still stands today.
  • 238 Post, San Francisco. Destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The structure built in its place, numbered 250 Post, became the longtime home of Gump’s, the famous luxury furnishings store. Gump’s moved to 135 Post in 1995; today, a Zara store occupies 250 Post.
  • 22 Chapala, Santa Barbara. Demolished.
  • 1203 State at Anapamu, Santa Barbara. Uncertain, but probably not any of the existing buildings at this location.
  • Bush & Van Ness, San Francisco. Demolished. Now the site of a five-story hotel called the Calista Organic Hotel.
  • 43-45 East 19th St, 4th floor, New York City. The building has been converted to residential apartments, with a restaurant on the street level.
  • 239 Grant, San Francisco. Built in 1909 as the “Paul Elder Building,” it still stands at the corner of Grant and Campton Place, now numbered 233 Grant.
  • Booth at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Taken down at the end of the fair in November 1915.
  • 239 Post, San Francisco. Now numbered 237 Post, the building is a Graff Diamonds store.
  • Sutter & Stockon, San Francisco. Demolished circa 1969. Now the site of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
  • Mills Building. Paul Jr. opened a small satellite shop at 228 Montgomery Street in order to serve the downtown business community. This retail space still exists today, to the left of the main entrance .

What is a tomoyé?

The Japanese word tomoe () refers to a comma-shaped symbol. There are hundreds of traditional Japanese tomoe designs. The most common variant is the three-tomoe design called mitsudomoe (三つ巴), which, according to Japanese tradition, creates the harmony of a perfect circle. Here are some examples of tomoe, taken from the book Japanese Design Motifs, by Fumie Adachi, Dover, 1972.

Examples of tomoe
Examples of tomoe
More examples
More examples

The tomoe has been a favorite symbol in Japanese heraldry for centuries. Today, the mitsudomoe has become popular with corporations and taiko drum troupes.

Elder first used the mitsudomoe design in 1900, which he anglicized as the word “tomoyé” (sometimes with the acute accent, sometimes without), and it became a logo of sorts for him. He used it in many books and magazines over the next two decades. When he hired John Henry Nash to run the new in-house printing shop in 1903, it was christened “The Tomoyé Press”.

Although it is unknown why Elder chose the tomoyé, he likely wanted to emphasize the connection between the Orient and his own book arts. Below are just a few of the many tomoyé marks Paul Elder used over his career.

Some of Elder's many tomoye marks
Some of Elder’s many tomoye marks
Categories FAQ

Will you be organizing another exhibition on Paul Elder?

Yes! An exhibition opens 6 November 2023 at the Book Club of California in San Francisco, and runs through 12 February 2024. Viewable either by appointment or during one of the Book Club’s frequent in-person events, usually on Monday evenings. Photographs will be posted here.

You can view photographs of my 2004 Paul Elder exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library here.

Categories FAQ

When will you publish the bibliography?

I started with publishing the Checklist for two reasons: it established a baseline of Elder’s output, and it was a chunk of work that could be completed in a reasonable time frame. The Bibliography, at least the one that I would feel proud to call my own, involves a much larger scope of work. The logistical problems are daunting for yours truly, who must still hold down a day job:

  • after many years of searching, there are still titles of which I have never seen a single copy
  • many of Elder’s books were published in multiple bindings,  marketing names, and cover artwork
  • Elder published a large amount of ephemera: calendars, greeting cards, postcards, mottoes, etc
  • a huge amount of material was surely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire

In summary: while I have no intention of dying without finishing the Bibliography, I think it will be a while before it appears in print.

Categories FAQ