Cover of "Consolatio"
Cover of “Consolatio”

During Stanford University’s annual commencement on 25 May 1903, professor Raymond Macdonald Alden stood to read a poem. It was an ode dedicated to the members of the class of 1903 who had died that month. Consolatio is a sobering reminder of how, not so long ago, the sudden death of young men and women was an all too common event. It is easy to forget the roll of deadly diseases—measles, mumps, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, whooping cough, scarlet fever—that we have since largely eradicated.

Alden (1873-1924) was born in New York and educated at the University of Pennsylvania. He held junior positions at Harvard and George Washington University before accepting the post of assistant professor of literature at Stanford in 1899. He later became chair of the English department at the University of Illinois. Alden also wrote a Christmas story Why the Chimes Rang (1909). Forgotten today, it was once quite popular. It tells the story of church bells which ring every Christmas Eve whenever someone places a special gift on the altar.

Title page of “Consolatio”

Consolatio has been digitized by the Internet Archive and is available online in a number of different formats.

Interior of "Consolatio"
Interior of “Consolatio”

By the Western Sea

Last week’s spotlight was the final book ever published by Paul Elder & Company; this week’s is the very first. The new firm of “D. P. Elder and Morgan Shepard” published By the Western Sea in 1898. The green cloth cover features an ocean wave design that wrapped around the spine onto part of the back cover. I find the design very attractive, but it appears that Elder never used that effect again on a book cover I know of only one other example of wraparound cover art in the Elder catalog. The book was printed at the Murdock Press, a firm that often printed Elder & Shepard’s publications before the creation of the Tomoye Press in 1903.

Samuel Marshall Ilsley was a Santa Barbara poet and playwright. Elder and Shepard knew him through Shepard’s wife, Mary Putnam. Ilsley was a friend of Mary and her sister Katharine Hooker (author of Wayfarers in Italy), and accompanied Katharine and her daughter Marian on a long trip to Europe in 1896.

Cover of "By the Western Sea"
Cover of “By the Western Sea”, with wraparound decoration
Title page of "By The Western Sea"
Title page of “By the Western Sea”