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: paulelder.org. 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...


  1. I just discovered the Paul Elder & Co. stamp in the back of a copy of Arabian Nights - Copy right 1909 (illustrated by Maxfield Parrish) - this book was a gift to a friend of mine in 1924 - who in part gifted the book to my son. I was interested to see what the stamp meant. Thank you - this is extremely interesting.

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! And I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

  2. I have a copy of The Rooster Club by Angelo with Paul Elder Stamp like yours on front of Dust jacket, 1944 printing


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