Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Sunday, August 30, 2020
Here's an interesting drawing by John R. Neill; this is an unidentified illustration, probably never used. It shows a crowd of winged men, one wearing a crown and another with a bell on his head, watching a man entering what appears to be an early concept for a Scalawagon. Other similar vehicles zoom by in the background.
The Scalawagons were a form of self-driving car, created by Neill for the 1941 Oz book, The Scalawagons of Oz. In the story they are designed by the Wizard of Oz to be used as free transportation - they can fly as well as roll! Neill's illustrations of the cars are eerily similar to the early concepts for Google's driverless cars.
A handwritten caption at the bottom of this drawing reads "Take me to the City Hall." and "Part 3". On the back of the page are several pencil sketches of the same crowned figure, as well as a variation or two of the man running to the car.
I think this may actually be a drawing intended for an unpublished story by Neill. Over on the John R. Neill Collection website, which features available artwork by the artist, David Maxine shows a drawing titled The Voice of Bong, dated 1939. That example features the same crowned leprechaun king, as well as a bell-headed fairy similar to the one seen in this drawing. It's difficult to imagine what exactly the story might have been. Perhaps it ended up being incorporated into Neill's own Oz books?
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The Wizard of Oz Story Book is one of the publications issued in Great Britain in 1940, at the time of the MGM film premiere in England. Hutchinson, the English publisher, produced a line of books related to the film, most featuring covers adapted from movie stills.
This particular book is an oversize softcover abridgment of the original L. Frank Baum story. It's interesting to note that Baum receives no author's credit on the cover, or for that matter anywhere in the book. On the other hand, W. W. Denslow is prominently mentioned on both the cover and title page! There are a sprinkling of illustrations adapted from Denslow's originals throughout the book. These must have been very tempting for young hands to color!
The dust jacket flaps of the complete version of the book (one variant shown on the left), list the various styles of the story that were available, or upcoming. This story book is #4 at the bottom of the list. Among the assorted adaptations of the book, there were to be a Colouring Book, a Painting Book, and a Picture Book with cut-out characters; creative choices for the marketing of the film!
Sunday, August 16, 2020
The published version of the painting looks candy colored and bright; this is partly due to printing techniques. The flat, brightly colored inks are not quite the same as the subtler watercolor and gouache used in the original.
The piece seems to have been a family favorite, as it was exhibited along with other examples of Neill's work on several occasions. One example is a 1965 display at the Port Washington Public Library, on Long Island (brochure shown below). Four paintings from Peter and the Princess were included in this exhibition, along with other drawings and sketches by Neill. I would love to know what the condition of this painting was at that time!
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Saturday, July 25, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Saturday, July 4, 2020
Sunday, June 28, 2020
Sunday, June 21, 2020
Sunday, June 14, 2020
The story centers on fraud in the insurance business; more specifically, in the shipping trade, where shipwrecked freighters could collect large payouts for lost goods. Much of the action takes place in and around Smyrna, and the story is filled with stereotypical Turks, Greeks, and other ethnic types, who are thwarted by our hero, a young American journalist posing as a British lord.
This is a case of Denslow designing two covers - one for the paperback and one for the hardcover. I came across the paperback version and blogged about it several years ago, but only recently found the hardcover. The paperback design focuses on Agathe the Serpent, a woman whose intentions are mysterious and possibly deadly. The hardcover is more sedate, focusing on a wrecked freighter in the foreground. In both cases, one of Denslow’s more elaborate seahorse signatures is featured.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
To start, a new edition of the book was set up with new illustrations by Dale Ulrey. This was a more elaborate Oz book than the publishers had produced in a while. Two-color illustrations, in rust and black, were printed throughout, and the front endpapers sported a full color map of Oz. This map had previously been featured in the 1954 Who’s Who in Oz, but in a slightly different form - and not in color! The book also had a dust jacket designed by Ulrey, featuring the Wizard himself. But by 1959, this jacket was replaced with a new design drawn by Roland Roycraft, who designed jackets for a handful of other Oz titles as well.
Perhaps the wizard wasn’t grabbing enough attention? The new design was quite bright with a hot pink curtain and cartoon-like images of Dorothy and her three friends. The endpaper map was gone, but the color work was still inside - my copy has the same rust and black color scheme of the earlier version. Then, in 1960 the jacket changed again, this time to a design by Dick Martin.
Martin’s Wizard jacket is a clever concept. Not quite as childlike as the Roycraft jacket, this time we have a wraparound design showing Dorothy and friends on the cover - with the same image, shown from behind, on the rear cover. The interior of the book still features Ulrey’s two-color illustrations, but they have now been given four different secondary colors - blue, green, yellow and red - to tie in with the story (more or less), in the same way that the illustrations did in the original 1900 book.
But this cover wasn’t destined to last either - in 1964 the entire book was given another overhaul, and most of the original illustrations by W. W. Denslow (printed in two colors) were restored. Dick Martin was responsible for the redesign, and this time the cover image was printed directly on the cloth of the book, in full color. The design chosen was based on a rare poster by Denslow, advertising the original edition, and a dust jacket was no longer part of the book. (Edit - according to Michael Hearn, the earliest copies of this book were issued with a glassine dust jacket.)
And then a year later the cover changed again! This time it was based on a Denslow drawing of Dorothy being carried from the deadly poppy field, with a white background and spine. The rest of the Baum titles were given new covers as well, creating what’s now known as the “white spine” edition. This final version was the last design used on the book by Reilly & Lee, and remained in use for the next ten years.