Vest Pocket Helps (1913) win the contest for the smallest known Paul Elder “books.” At 2½ x 3½ inches and only ten or twelve pages of text, they’re each a very slim piece. But then, that’s why they’re called Vest Pocket Helps: so that they will easily fit into your vest pocket. Back in the era when daily attire (at least, a man’s daily attire) always included a vest pocket, it was a self-explanatory title.
Each book contains several short passages on Christian themes. The books credit no author, but the copyright page indicates that “these pages have been compiled from random readings.” The compiler was presumably not Paul Elder (who would surely have credited himself, as he did on earlier publications, such as Mosaic Essays), but more likely one of Elder’s favorite compilers of religion-themed books, such as Agness Greene Foster.
There were eight titles in the series, conveniently listed on the copyright page. The books were sold for 10¢ each, or 80¢ for the set of eight “gathered and tied with linen tape.”
The series was incorrectly titled Vest Pocket Tracts in the printed editions of the checklist.
Friederika Quitman was born in 1844 at Monmouth, her family’s mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. She was the youngest daughter of General John A. Quitman and Eliza Turner Quitman, both of whom died when she was a teenager. She and her siblings inherited the estate, but it was attacked in 1862 by Union forces and the furnishings were sold or stolen. In 1863, at the age of 19, Frederika married Francis Eugene Ogden (1835-67), a Confederate officer; they had no children. Upon Francis’s early death at age 32 Friederika became ill, probably with clinical depression. She continued to live at Monmouth, until the mid-1870s when she relocated to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. It was here she began keeping a diary, writing about nature, philosophy, great literary works, and her own illness. By the turn of the century her health had improved, and on New Year’s Day 1903 she married Austin Williams Smith (1843-1911), a widowed Confederate veteran and cousin of her first husband. They spent their final years at Smith’s Saragossa plantation near Natchez. Friederika died in 1911, four months after her husband.
Friederika did not publish her diary during her lifetime. It was her niece, Eva C. Lovell, who selected entries from her aunt’s journal (covering the years 1887-93) and arranged for publication with Paul Elder. Lovell also wrote the “Biographical Sketch” on pages ix-x, signed “E. C. L.” Following that is an Introduction by “H. L. J.”, identity unknown.
Elder published the book in brown paper over boards with gilt embossed printing on the cover, and matching dust jacket. The colophon does not identify the artist who designed the title page and chapter decorations.
In the 19th century, mathematicians such as Lagrange and Hamilton began exploring fourth dimensional space. In his 1888 book A New Era of Thought, mathematician and science fiction author Charles Howard Hinton coined the term tesseract for the fourth-dimensional analog of a three-dimensional cube. (The term was famously borrowed in 1963 by Madeleine L’Engle in A Wrinkle In Time.) Soon literary authors, including such luminaries as Marcel Proust, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Joseph Conrad, Oscar Wilde and H. G. Wells began writing about the fourth dimension: sometimes evoking geometry, but often equating it with “time.”
In The Fourth-Dimensional Reaches of the Exposition (1915), Cora Williams takes her stab at the mysteries of the fourth dimension, broadly invoking the monumental scale of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition’s fairgrounds.
The human mind has so long followed its early cow-paths through the wilderness of sense that great hardihood is required even to suggest that there may be other and better ways of traversing the empirical common. So it is that the fear of being proclaimed a Brazenhead has restrained me until this eleventh hour from telling of my discoveries concerning the fourth-dimensional reaches of our Exposition.
This is indeed an odd little book. Williams writes with a florid mysticism:
While many books have been written descriptive of the Exposition, none has succeeded in accounting completely for the joy we have in yonder miracle of beauty. … There is still a subtle something not spatialized for consciousness. Length, breadth, and height do not suffice to set forth the ways of our delight in it. … Obviously to give it extension we shall have to ascribe to reality other dimensions than those of our present sense-realm. … Although the scientist has found it useful on occasion to postulate the fourth dimension, he has not thought necessary as yet to put it in the category of reality; much less has the layman.
Later, Williams muses about the beginning of life on Earth:
All we need in order to come to a fourth-dimensional consciousness, said Henri Poincaré, is a new table of distribution … a breaking up of old associations of ideas and the forming of new relations. … Lester Ward speculates that life remained aquatic for the vast periods that paleontology would indicate; Cambrian, Silurian, Devonian and Carboniferous—a duration greater than all subsequent time. Life was not able to maintain itself on land until it had overcome this one-dimensional limitation. … A venturesome Pterodactyl was who first essayed to make his way among the many obstructions to be found ashore! By what intuition was he impelled?
In the title chapter, she discusses the Fair itself, undoubtedly becoming the only Elder author to use the word “hyperspace”:
The Panama-Pacific International Exposition is best seen in its fourth-dimensional aspect when approached through the Gateway of Memory. This is what one might expect, for that entrance alone has the requisite geometrical structure. You will recall having head, I am sure, how in the fourth dimension a person may go in and out of a locked room at his pleasure with bolts and bars untouched. Broad and open as is this Gate of Memory, when you pass its portals the wall closes behind you; there is no visible opening to mark the spot of your entry. A feeling of detachment comes over you. This is augmented by the burst of light and color that flashes across the field of your vision, and for the first time you understand the purport of those ‘banners yellow, glorious, golden’ which ‘do float and flow.’ They seem to bear you on breezes of their own creating to the freedom of outer spaces. What you had taken for the flauntings of festivity are become the heralds of hyperspace.
During her lifetime, Cora Lenore Williams (1865-1937) was known primarily as an educator. In 1917 she acquired the John Hopkins Spring mansion in Berkeley, which she turned into the Institute for Creative Development (later Cora Williams Institute), a fancy school specializing in languages, poetry, music, and literature. Williams also wrote one other book for Paul Elder, As If (1914).
Gertrude Partington Albright (1874-1959) was born in Heysham, England and received artistic training from her father, the artist John H.E. Partington. Her family moved to San Francisco, California in 1880. She returned to Europe to study at the Academie Delecluse, and later opened a studio at 220 Post Street where she did her painting and printmaking. She married artist Herman Oiver Albright in 1917 and joined the faculty at the California School of Fine Arts where she taught until her retirement in 1946. She exhibited at the Salon International des Beaux Arts, Carnegie Institute, Corcoran Gallery and the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition where she was awarded a bronze medal for painting.
Ormeida Curtis Harrison (1875–1947) was a poet and assistant principal at the A-to-Zed school in Berkeley. She was second wife of author and naturalist Charles Keeler. Her poem “Time Is” appears on the tissue guard between the title page and frontispiece.
Paul Elder had a genuine predilection for collections of quotations. Perhaps they sold well, and no doubt Elder wanted to distinguish the Tomoye Press with original works. (To be sure, Paul Elder & Company sold traditional literature as well—all the great works from Shakespeare on down, including contemporary authors—but those were from other publishing houses. Elder, in general, did not publish works that had been previously published elsewhere.)
Jennie Day Haines authored six collections of quotations for Elder. She was born Jennie Elizabeth Day in New York on 26 May 1853 and was an honor student at the Normal College of New York in 1871. She married William Pitt Haines in 1873, and later lived in New Rochelle, New York and to Derby, Connecticut.
The printer at the Tomoye Press was John Henry Nash. He was a master at the mitred rule: the straight line with the end cut at a 45° angle, so that perpendicular rules would fit together precisely. Look at the complicated gridwork of mitred rules on the title page: fitting the corners is the hardest part, and Nash made it look easy.
The weakest part of Christmasse Tyde is the typography. The text type is called Washington Text—ironic, because the typeface is only suitable as a display type. Paul Elder must have loved it, however, because it often appears in his publications during the first decade of the 1900s. I don’t know the name of the uncial typeface used in the title page and headers, but its readability is even worse than Washington Text. Still, Nash’s exacting rule grid make the page pleasant to look at.
“Merrie Christmasse Tyde” and “Happie New Yeare” to all from paulelder.org.
In 1906 Paul Elder published Jennie Day Haines’s Sunday Symphonies, a compilation of quotations for every Sunday of the year. Haines wrote five other compilations for Elder, including Weather Opinions and Ye Gardeyne Boke.
This particular exemplar of Sunday Symphonies came in a special gift box for Easter 1908, complete with a purple ribbon and attached gift card.