Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Friday, March 27, 2009


L. Frank Baum wasn't the only one to work for Reilly & Britton under a pseudonym. John R. Neill illustrated at least one book under the name Ivin Ney - as to why, I really can't imagine! A Knight of the Wilderness was published in 1909, and contains 6 color plates by Neill under the assumed name. The book deals with Abraham Lincoln's years in Illinois. After a little thought, the pseudonym does make some sense - it's a kind of Russian-ized version of his real name (Ivin/John, Ney/Neill).

I don't know of any other examples of Neill working under this alias. 1909 was a busy year for him, with The Road to Oz and the start of the Neill Gift Book series of poetry books. Maybe Reilly & Britton was worried about too much exposure in various genres for their popular Oz artist. The ink and wash style of the illustrations for A Knight of the Wilderness is very much in line with the poetry books or Neill's magazine work of the time, as opposed to his Oz drawings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Caroline Siedle Part 2

This past weekend in New York, I viewed the exhibit Curtain Call at the New York Public Library for Performing Arts. It's an impressive show, with many costume, lighting and set designs as well as actual costumes from theater productions over the past 100 years or so. The exhibition is celebrating the work of women in the technical aspects of the theater, contributions that are often overlooked especially in the early days. Unfortunately, photos were not permitted in the gallery but I did find the image above online at broadwayandme.blogspot.com.

My particular interest was to see costume drawings by Caroline Siedle, who designed the costumes for the 1903 New York production of The Wizard of Oz. There was a nice display of about 16 of her drawings on one wall, as well as a tunic believed to be from an actual costume, although not from Oz. Unfortunately, the information given for Seidle is not terribly good - several costumes are called out as being from The Wizard that I'd be fairly certain are not. A lovely design of a floral costume is labeled as a poppy, when it's clearly a pansy. A costume for a young girl in a large sunbonnet, with a blue-checked dress is labeled as a Wizard design - it's easy to see how this could be confused with Dorothy from the book, but it certainly isn't the stylish young woman that Dorothy was in the musical. A similar design for a country boy in a straw hat is also listed for the Wizard — I think both credits may be wrong.

For those with more current Oz interests, one of the dresses worn by Glinda in Wicked is on display, as well as two of Susan Hilferty's costume drawings for Glinda and Elphaba.

I also picked up a copy of the softcover book written to accompany the show. It can't really be called a catalog since there is no list of all the items in the exhibition, but eight Siedle drawings are shown, including one I don't recall seeing on display. This is a very fun design for a costume and hat with a bumblebee motif, again credited for The Wizard of Oz. Again, I'm doubtful whether this was designed for that particular show.

Siedle designed many costumes for a number of shows, including Babes in Toyland and other extravaganzas. There is little information available on this highly talented woman, and her career was cut short by an early death. Some of the drawings on display bear the stamp of the Metropolitan Opera, where her husband was a prop master. The girl and boy mentioned above and a couple other designs by Siedle, as well as several other women, can be seen at this link - http://www.nypl.org/news/articles/?article_id=255
If anyone is in the area, it's a fascinating exhibit, running until May 2nd.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

More Oz Color

While I'm on the topic, here are a couple more examples of color shifts/changes within printings of color illustrations in the Oz books.

One of the best known changes is in The Emerald City of Oz. The earliest printings used an additional color of ink, green metallic, on the color plates to help create an Ozzy feeling. Later printings dropped the extra ink, leaving white areas within the plates. Fortunately, in most cases the green ink was used as a minor embellishment, and the images hold together quite well. In some cases. you actually see more detail without the green ink.

In the case of the illustration to the right, dropping the green ink meant losing the border of the image. This isn't a vital part of the illustration itself, but there is a lot of humor in the missing words. To the best of my knowledge, illustrator John R. Neill devised the nonsense words himself, without the assistance of L. Frank Baum. It reads:

Soandso, and soandso, oh yes, I don't know it might be so I calculate but I don't know, intre mintry cuteycorn appleseeds and fly away Jack. Six sixes are not sixty-six? And we still hold to folderol de doodle all day, if I had a donkey that wouldn't go I'd buy a fiddle for fifty cents and rattle his bones over the stones it's only a beggar whom nobody owns, listen??

The character shown talking to the Wizard is from Rigmarole Town, where people talk in circles. I think Neill grasped this pretty well!

Ozma of Oz was printed with color illustrations for many years, and there is a definite shift towards brighter color in later editions. Shown above are the frontispiece from a first state copy (left) and a 1920's edition (right). Ozma looks like she's been in the sun a little too long in the later printing, and can sometimes be very blotchy. Part of the reason for this is that the early printings were on a smoother paper stock. By the 1920's, the Oz books were being printed on a much pulpier paper which soaked up more ink, resulting in brighter and harsher color.

In the image to the right, a similar result can be seen with the earlier plate on the left and the later on the right.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Oz Color

Later printings of The Wizard of Oz saw more than just changes in color plates; the color printing used throughout the text was also affected. A prime example can be seen in these two images.

The first is from an early Bobbs-Merrill printing, and the second is from a later Donohue printing. The Bobbs-Merrill pages are printed in a darker green ink than was originally used, making the text more difficult to read — but at least the entire image is there.

Donohue was a cheaper reprint house that leased the plates for the book, and turned out less expensive editions. One of their ways of saving money was to minimize the use of color throughout the book — one of the most unique features of the original edition! By dropping the green out of this text illustration, the image no longer makes any sense. Personally, I think they were cheating their customers; perhaps they should have been prevented from turning out such unattractive editions of this book!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Color Plates

It's not strange for color plates to vary in tone in various printings of Oz books. Accidental changes can happen from one printing to the next, and sometimes deliberate changes are made, especially when trying to cut publishing costs.

The example above shows how drastic changes can happen when a book changes publisher. The illustration by W. W. Denslow shows Dorothy and friends meeting the Cowardly Lion for the first time, in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. On the left is the original version of this color plate, as published by George M. Hill in the first edition. The center image shows the change that happened when Bobbs-Merrill began publishing The New Wizard of Oz. The color plates in the new edition lost much of the original clean brightness seen in the Hill edition, and became slightly muddied. The final plate is from a 1939 copy of The Wizard of Oz, also published by Bobbs-Merrill. This plate does have three colors in it, but it hardly seems worth the bother!

An interesting, and I think more unusual, change happened during the print runs of The Marvelous Land of Oz. Around the 4th state, the color plates became much brighter than in earlier issues. Off hand, I don't think any other Oz books published by Reilly & Britton had this kind of dramatic alteration. The publishers must have felt that the brighter colors were more appropriate to the story.

Incidentally, this illustration is another example of John R. Neill using curtains for dramatic effect!