Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A haunted book shop revisited

Couldn't let Halloween get away without a reference to a previous post about a haunted book shop--the Holmes Book Company in Oakland.


And if you visit the link above, you'll see a comment from a former employee who confirms the place was haunted!

And now some of my books, which I've placed in an early 1900s building, known as the Vogelsang Antique Emporium, in Rosenberg, Texas, are showing up as the backdrop for a paranormal investigation in that building! I don't think my books have anything to do with the paranormal activity, they're just innocent bystanders in the investigation. Or are they?

Monday, October 29, 2012

A pair of San Francisco book shop labels


Scouting used books the other day, I found a few that had, at some point in their history, resided on the shelves of different San Francisco book shops as long ago, possibly, as the 1930s. The bookseller labels inside the rear cover of each were ones I had not come across before so I had to add them to my collection. Coincidentally, both books were published in 1933.


In a copy of The Name and Nature of Poetry, by A.E. Housman, Cambridge University Press, I found this Gelber-Lilienthal label. Leon Gelber and Theodore Lilienthal (1893-1972) were the partners in the bookselling firm that bore their surnames.

After Gelber died, Lilienthal ran the business and then sold it to Lew Lengfeld in 1946, who renamed it Books, Inc. Under that name, the business still exists today with a dozen stores (ten in California).

The Princeton University Library blog, Graphic Arts, has a related post from December 2010 by Julie L. Mellby, which turned up in my initial search of these booksellers. Though the post is intended to display an example of the work of illustrator and printmaker, Valenti Angelo, it also offers a little information of Gelber and Lilienthal through their association with Angelo--when their business began (1924), a description of their shop, their personalities, and the establishment of their publishing business with the Lantern Press imprint.

I discovered another small press venture, associated only with Lilienthal's name, in the archives of The Rare Books & Special Collections of the Tarleton Law Library at the University of Texas. They have a poem printed by Lilenthal under his Quercus imprint.

Paul Elder & Co.

The other label I found comes from Paul Elder & Co., affixed in a copy of John Drinkwater's Laying the Devil, published by Sidgwick & Jackson, Ltd, London, 1933.

The author dedicated this book to his friend, Alfred Sutro, whose leather bookplate I have in a copy of Byways in Bookland, by James Westfall Thompson, published by the the Book Arts Club of the University of California in Berkeley, 1935.

I bring that up because I have planned for some time to write about Sutro and his bookplate. As it warrants a separate post (check back in), I'll return to Paul Elder & Co. for now.

Paul Elder (1872-1948) was a San Francisco bookseller and publisher who got started in bookselling in the 1890s working for William Doxley. Later in that decade, he would partner with Morgan Shepard to sell books under the name Elder & Shepard. When Shepard left several years later, Paul Elder and Company was born.

The rest of the story, in carefully researched detail, can be found at David Mostardi's excellent site devoted to Elder: This site is chock-full of information on Elder, complemented with additional information about some of the figures important to Elder and the San Francisco bookselling and printing scene in the early 1900s.

Mostardi also provides the history of Elder's book shop labels (click here to see), which he refers to as "postage stamps." The label above that I found is dated to the 1920s. As the book it was found in was published in 1933, the stamp was obviously used well into the 1930s.

These book shop labels, also referred to as tickets, have been scarce in my book scouting activities of late. I've been indebted to a few European collectors who have generously shared some of their duplicates with me and I'm trying to acquire duplicates myself to repay their kindness. But these new ones will have to be shared in this format for now. Hopefully, duplicates will turn up some day. The hunt continues...

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Mediterranean Tapestry

A recent anniversary cruise in the Mediterranean and adjacent seas (Aegean, Ionian, and Adriatic) has me recalling the countries my wife and I visited (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Croatia) and searching related ephemera from my collection. The trip was promoted as a "Mediterranean Tapestry," so with a nod to that wonderful vacation here's my own little tapestry of bibliophemera from that region of the world, some of which has been posted here previously.

First up is Spain, our embarkation country, where we spent a few days in Barcelona. Here's a newsletter about the Civil War in Spain during the 1930s (actually published in New York) that features a book fair in Barcelona taking place despite the war. These newsletters were featured here on this blog.

And, as Barcelona is in the autonomous region of Catalonia, where many independence-minded citizens support secession, I should throw in another piece from elsewhere in Spain just to cover my bases for any future modifications to the country's map. Here's a pair of covers advertising a 1950 exposition in Valencia (Catalonia's southern neighbor) for the art ex-libris: La Exposicion Iberia de Ex-Libris.

For a visit to Nice, France, here is a book shop label for L. Barma, which was featured in this post. I came across neither this book shop nor any other during my too-brief stroll through Vieux Nice (Old Town) and other areas of the beautiful Côte d'Azur.

We visited several regions of Italy, but the piece of ephemera I have in mind for this country is from Firenze, or Florence. The first post on this blog nearly five years ago was about a colorful billhead from an Italian book shop, Giulio, Giannini & Figlio of Firenze (Florence).

On a book-related note, in Tuscany we drove near the village (at least I think we were near it) where Carlo Lorenzini took his pen name, Collodi, by which he is better known as the author of Pinocchio.

On another blog several years ago, I explored the story of Pinocchio and its author Collodi (click here to read), prompted by the acquisition of an early American printing of the book that revealed a different version of the story than the Disney treatment I had grown up knowing. Poor ol' Pinocchio had a much rougher go of it in that original version.

As for the rest of our Italian adventure, I did acquire an item in Amalfi for my collection, along with an introduction to the history of paper making that the Amalfi Coast region is known for. The people there learned the ancient craft from Arabs (who learned it from the Chinese), who came to their area around the 12th century. But I'll save that for another post. I'll try to wait for the publication of Nicholas Basbanes' forthcoming book, On Paper, scheduled for early (I hope) 2013. I'd like to see what he may have written about the area I visited.

Sailing on around the boot of Italy and into Greece, here's a bookstore piece that I can't read (and you know what's coming)... It's all Greek to me. Anyway, I trusted the dealer who sold it to me and you can sort of make out the root of a few words related to books.

The last country on our trip was Croatia, for which I have an interesting 1956 bookseller's catalog from Zagreb, though our time was spent in Dubrovnik and the neighboring Konavle region.

Again, I can't read the language, but one of the images in the catalog is no mystery, though the genre is. A copy of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon is offered in the Croatian language, perhaps the first translation of Hammett's classic into that language.

While in Dubrovnik, I found a few book shops, but the stock was newly published books. No antiquarian or second-hand shops to browse, but serendipity in another form awaited.

We visited the Dominican Monastery there and from the courtyard I looked up and could see into a few second floor windows bookcases full of old books. I wanted to figure out a way to get up there, though I'm sure access would have been denied.

Fortunately, the Monastery's museum was next up in our walking tour and to my surprise and delight, several examples of illuminated manuscripts were on display. I hadn't expected to run across such beautiful antiquities from the book world, but the monastery had a fine collection I would soon learn.

I would have given anything to touch and hold such treasure, or to even capture them in photographs. Of course, none of that was allowed--the books were behind glass and photographs were forbidden. So I looked around for booklets or brochures in the tiny gift area that might provide me with images and more information. I found the following souvenir book in English:

Scanning its pages, I found the library I mentioned seeing from the courtyard...

And the illuminated manuscripts from the museum.

Back home, I've been researching what I saw and trying to find out what I missed in the way of libraries, old book shops, and rare books. Of course, I did similar research before hand, but actually walking the streets of some of these places provides a new perspective, vastly different from the one you get on a computer screen. That, along with a tight schedule and the considerations of my traveling partner's interests (hers run a bit counter to mine with regard to biblio-anything), provided for some missed opportunities, I'm sure, and also the justification for a return trip some day. As if the scenery, history, and culture in these places weren't enough!

But with other places on the bucket list to see, I'll likely retrace recent travels with only ephemeral reminders and see what I can learn from them. There's often something new in something old waiting to be discovered.


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