Observations of Jay (A Dog)

Title page of "Observations of Jay"
Title page of “Observations of Jay”

Morgan Shepard published six of his own books during the Elder & Shepard partnership. One was a volume of poetry, and the other five were children’s books. The most successful of those (to judge from the extant copies available today) was Observations of Jay (A Dog) and Other Stories in 1900.

The book is furnished with delightful Art Nouveau illustrations, probably by Shepard himself.

Page 9 of “Observations of Jay”
Page 21 of “Observations of Jay”
Page 47 of “Observations of Jay”
Page 56-7 of “Observations of Jay”
Page 69 of "Observations of Jay"
Page 69 of “Observations of Jay”
Page 123 of "Observations of Jay"
Page 123 of “Observations of Jay”

Animal Analogues

Animal Analogues cover
Cover of “Animal Analogues”

If you liked How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers, then you’ll love Animal Analogues. That’s what Paul Elder thought too, and so in 1908 he published Robert Williams Wood’s sequel to similar acclaim. As any author can tell you, sequels are notoriously difficult to write, but Wood pulled it off, with poetry and drawings to delight old and young alike.

The cover says “Denatured Series No. 24”, but the series began with How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers as #23, and Wood wrote no further books in this series.

Animal Analogues title
Title page of “Animal Analogues”
Animal Analogues p10
Pages 10-11 of “Animal Analogues”
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Pages 14-15 of “Animal Analogues”
Animal Analogues p20
Pages 20-21 of “Animal Analogues”
Animal Analogues p28
Page 28 of “Animal Analogues”

How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers

How to Tell Birds cover
Cover of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”

As with animated cartoons, the best children’s books are ones that satisfy both the children and the adults. Paul Elder published a number of innovative children’s books, but perhaps the most delightful is How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers by Robert Williams Wood, which appeared in 1907.

There is no traditional typesetting in the book; everything was drawn and lettered by Wood. Each page contains drawings of a bird (for example, the catbird) and a flower (the catnip), plus an amusing poem on how to distinguish them. It’s a perfect bedtime storybook.


How to Tell Birds title
Title page of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”

Robert Williams Wood (1868-1955) was a professor of physics at Johns Hopkins University from 1901 until his death. He specialized in optics and has been described as the “father of both infrared and ultraviolet photography”. He invented a device now called “Wood’s lamp,” which radiates only ultraviolet light and is used in dermatology to diagnose certain skin conditions which fluoresce under ultraviolet wavelengths. He also co-wrote two science fiction books with Arthur Train, The Man Who Rocked the Earth and The Moon Maker.

Although the cover says “Denatured Series No. 23”, that name was concocted for this book and there are no earlier “denatured” titles. Wood continued the series in 1908 with Animal Analogues as Denatured Series No. 24, but he wrote no further books like it.

Update, April 2017: In 1917, Dodd, Mead and Company copyrighted a new edition entitled “How To Tell The Birds From The Flowers, and Other Wood-cuts.” Your editor has seen a 19th edition of this title from 1939, so it was clearly a very popular title for Dodd Mead. Paul Elder was still publishing his own books in 1917, and it’s unclear how he lost the publishing rights.

How to Tell Birds p16
Page 16-17 of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”
How to Tell Birds p20
Page 20-21 of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”
How to Tell Birds p28
Page 28 of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”
How to Tell Birds alt cover
Alternate binding of “How To Tell the Birds From the Flowers”

A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom

Cover of “A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom”

Stories for adult readers go in and out of fashion, but children’s tales are timeless. Paul Elder and Company published a number of delightful children’s books that any modern parent could read at bedtime. One of these is A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom, from 1905. Each page has a short poem with accompanying amusing illustration. The simple pen-and-ink drawings are an interesting view into (and perhaps parody of) turn-of-the-century upper-class domestic life, particularly of children’s fashions: wide-brimmed hats, neckties and short pants for boys, hats and dresses for girls. Every page includes an animal, usually the pet dog or cat. Hints of Arts & Crafts architecture can be seen: wide porches, box beam ceilings, casement windows.

alt cover
Alternate cover of “A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom”

Two versions of the book have been seen: one in monochrome, the other in color. The latter is printed in as many as five different colors. The printing is on one-side only, with adjoining leaves left unopened.

The author and artist was the multi-talented Edward Salisbury “Ned” Field (1878-1936), who was also a journalist, playwright and poet.  Early in his career he worked as an artist for the Hearst Newspapers in San Francisco and signed his drawings “Childe Harold”. During this time he became the secretary and possibly also the lover of Fanny Osbourne Stevenson, recent widow of author Robert Louis Stevenson. Fanny was 38 years his senior, but they were companions until her death in 1914. Just six months later, Ned married Fanny’s daughter Isobel Osbourne (Ned was 20 years younger than Isobel, and only three years older than her son Austin).

Title page, color version

Ned later became a successful real estate developer in Southern California and built a home on Zaca Lake, in the mountains north of Santa Barbara. The Field home became a popular destination for writers and actors. Ned Field died on 20 September 1936 at the age of 58. Isobel outlived him by seventeen years, and died in 1953 at age 95.

p14 colorized
pages 14-15, color version
p14 mono
pages 14-15, monochrome version
Dust jacket of "A Child's Book of Abridged Wisdom"
Dust jacket of “A Child’s Book of Abridged Wisdom”

Teddy Sunbeam

“Little Fables for Little Housekeepers” is the subtitle of this 1905 children’s book by Charlotte Grace Sperry (1873-1943). The idea, it seems, was that if you read your son or daughter a bedtime story about housecleaning, he or she would cheerfully help you mop the kitchen floor the next morning. Whatever works, but I’m thinking the kids are going to catch on pretty quickly.

Charlotte was the daughter of Calvin Graham Sperry (1831-1906) and Julia Melinda Smith (1840-1895). Julia’s younger brother was Francis Marion “Borax” Smith, who used the famous “20 mule team” wagons to haul the borax to his own Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad; he named the railroad stop at mile 79 “Sperry” after his niece Charlotte. The Sperry family is buried in the grand Smith mausoleum on “Millionaires’ Row” at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.

The uncredited artwork is by Albertine Randall Wheelan (1863-1954), who also drew the frontispieces for two of the Western Classics series.

TeddySunbeam cover
Cover of “Teddy Sunbeam”
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Title page of “Teddy Sunbeam”
TeddySunbeam interior
The story of “Miss Lend-a-Hand”
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Endpapers of “Teddy Sunbeam”. Happy little dustpans!