The Menehunes

Menehunes
Cover of “The Menehunes”

The Menehunes, Their Adventures With the Fisherman and How They Built the Canoe, by Emily Foster Day, 1905. This small volume was bound in Hawaiian kapa fabric, with delightful illustrations by Spencer Wright. The following year, Day wrote another book of Hawaiiana for Paul Elder, The Princess of Manoa. Emily was married to Francis Root Day (1859-1906), a prominent doctor. In 1887 they moved from Chicago to Honolulu, where they lived until their deaths.

Menehunes are popular characters in Hawaiian mythology; they are said to be a race of small people that live in the deep forest, far from the prying eyes of humans. The Menehunes arrived in Hawaii before the Polynesians, and were excellent craftspeople who built heiau (temples), roads, and fishing ponds.

Frontispiece and title page of "Menehunes"
Frontispiece and title page of “Menehunes”
Pages 2-3 of "Menehunes"
Pages 2-3 of “Menehunes”
The decorated endpapers of "Menehunes"
The decorated endpapers of “Menehunes”

Mosaic Essays

Beginning in 1901, Paul Elder compiled and published a series of booklets of aphorisms, each with a separate theme. Friendship was published first, followed by Happiness, Nature and Success in 1903, and finally by Love in 1905. They were quite successful—over 70,000 copies were sold by 1904—so in 1906 Elder reissued the five booklets as a single volume entitled Mosaic Essays. The cover and title page artwork is by Santa Barbara artist Robert Wilson Hyde.

Mosaic Essays cover
Front and back covers of “Mosaic Essays”

There are three known bindings: paper wraps, paper on boards, and leather wraps. The paper wraps edition seen below was issued with a matching presentation box; such a box was probably available with the other editions as well.

Mosaic Essays title
Mosaic Essays, decorated half-title page
Variant leather cover of "Mosaic Essays"
Leather-bound edition of “Mosaic Essays”
Mosaic Essays paper
Paper wraps binding of “Mosaic Essays”

 

 

Matching presentation box for the paper wraps edition of "Mosaic Essays"
Matching presentation box for the paper wraps edition of “Mosaic Essays”

Calendar 1907

Calendar May 1907
May-June from a 1907 calendar

Today Paul Elder is known primarily for his books, but he also produced a large amount of ephemera. Here is a page from a 1907 calendar. The months and days are almost an afterthought, taking a backseat to the illustrations and quote from Robert Louis Stevenson.

Wayfarers in Italy

Cover of the 100-copy edition of “Wayfarers in Italy”

Katharine Hooker’s Wayfarers in Italy is perhaps the finest book issued by Elder & Shepard during their five-year collaboration (1898-1903). It was privately printed in 1901 at the Stanley-Taylor Company on hand-made Ruisdael paper in two different limited editions of 100 and 300 copies. The title page decorations and illuminated chapter headings were almost certainly designed by Morgan Shepard, and the book contains many photographs taken by Katharine’s daughter Marian. In 1902, Scribners bought the book; their edition of Wayfarers went through four printings by 1905.

Hooker, born Katharine Mussey Putnam (1849-1935) was very well connected in turn-of-the-century California. She had an active, athletic youth, and both climbed Half Dome and hiked the Grand Canyon. She learned French and German as a teenager, and had a lifelong interest in books.

Title page and frontispiece from “Wayfarers in Italy”

Katherine’s husband John Daggett Hooker became wealthy in the ironworks industry, allowing her to take an extended trip to Europe in 1896 with her daughter Marian and Samuel Marshall Ilsley (author of By the Western Sea, Elder & Shepard’s first publication). She and Marian returned to Italy in 1899 (by which time Katherine had also become fluent in Italian), and it was this trip that became the basis for Wayfarers. The commission came to Elder & Shepard through Katharine’s sister Mary Putnam, who was married to Morgan Shepard. Katharine also wrote two other travel books about Italy, Byways in Southern Tuscany (1918) and Through the Heel of Italy (1927).

Italy in 1901. The boundaries of several regions have changed since then, and the national border does not yet encompass South Tryol or Trieste, areas that were annexed to Italy after World War I.

Hooker’s prose is enjoyable, and if she uses the passive voice a bit too often, I forgive her. She is adept at painting a gauzy, romantic picture of warm Italian summer afternoons, while also recounting amusing and interesting conversations with the locals. In Milan’s Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, Hooker and her daughter fail to find a certain Madonna and Child listed in their catalog; they quiz the custodian without success, but later he escorts them into a private room to show them the painting. In Ancona, she delightfully describes a heaping plate of light, fluffy fritto misto. In Venice, they strike up a friendship with their gondolier, Giovanni, who teaches them about the hardships and politics of his profession. Hooker’s visit to Siena can be dated to August 1899 because she witnessed the Palio on August 16th, where the contrada of Lupa was victorious. And if you are an experienced visitor to modern Italy, you will shake your head on almost every page as you think about how much has changed in the last 110 years.

Marian Osgood Hooker (1875-1968) also had a notable life. She became a physician and published numerous medical and scientific books, in addition to being a prominent amateur photographer. In 1903, Marian became the first woman to climb Mt. Whitney (the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states), in a party that included family friend and famed naturalist John Muir.

Page 3 of “Wayfarers in Italy”

Elder & Shepard’s edition of Wayfarers in Italy is rare because so few were printed, but the Scribner edition is easier to find. Here is one vintage book you will enjoy reading.

Pages 88-9 of “Wayfarers in Italy”
Pages 242-3 of “Wayfarers in Italy”
Pages 244-5 of “Wayfarers in Italy,” with one of Marian Hooker’s photographs
Page 279 of “Wayfarers in Italy”
Colophon of the edition of 100 copies. The “E” was written by Paul Elder, the “S” by Morgan Shepard.
Colophon of the edition of 300 copies

 

Do any furnishings from Elder’s bookstores still exist?

Bernard Maybeck designed wooden furniture and medieval-style chandeliers for the 1906 store on Van Ness. These were moved to 239 Grant in 1909, and later to 239 Post in 1921. Maybeck also designed Gothic-inspired window screens for 239 Grant (you can see some of them at the top of the stairwell); those pieces were moved to 239 Post in 1921. Only one or two pieces were then moved to the modern Sutter & Stockton store in 1948.

The question is whether any of the furniture, chandeliers, or window screens have survived. Personally, I doubt it. I have not heard of anyone who claims to own them. Arts & Crafts was out of fashion in 1948 so it’s likely all those pieces were discarded. Of course, it’s possible some have survived but their owners no longer know their provenance.

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