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

Thursday, October 31, 2013


In 1904, John R. Neill was tapped to illustrate the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. Apparently he was busy with other projects at the time, and hesitated to accept the job - but fortunately, he had second thoughts. He would continue as official Oz illustrator until his death in 1943.

In 1900 L. Frank Baum and W. W. Denslow had scored a hit as author and illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but sadly that relationship had soured, due in part to disagreements over profits from the hit Broadway production of the book. In illustrating this second title, Neill deliberately used a simpler, bolder style of drawing to help transition from the well known illustrations of Denslow. His images are far more poster-like than his work in later Oz titles.

This is the original drawing for a color plate in the book, showing the creation of Jack Pumpkinhead by the boy Tip. This piece has suffered obvious damage over the past 100+ years, but it's currently being restored to a more stable state. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence among vintage illustration art!

The Land of Oz was the only Oz title other than the Wizard that I read when I was quite young, and it's always held a special place for me in the series. Part of that was due to the wonderful and plentiful illustrations in the book - they really gave me a sense of what Oz was, and looked like. Consequently, I'm thrilled to have a piece from the book!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Russian Postcards

A while back, I posted a Russian Oz postcard showing Strasheela, the Scarecrow. Since then, I've gradually managed to get what appears to be an entire set of 16 cards, which follow the Russian version of the story of The Wizard of Oz. The set was originally sold in an illustrated folder, which I found through Wonderful Books of Oz - Cindy also currently has several of the individual cards available. Be sure to click on the image for a better view of the cards!
The cards appear to have been issued in two styles - with an overall amber tone, and a lighter, brighter version. According to the Russian seller, the amber variety are from 1956, while the brighter versions are from 1962. In the set I have pictured above, the Emerald City card (#12) is of the brighter variety - it's quite a difference!

*After posting the above, I learned a bit more from David Maxine about this series. It seems more likely that the varying colors of the cards may be due to an aging varnish finish on the cards, rather than different printing choices and dates. Also, the 1956 date doesn't seem likely as these illustrations weren't used until 1959!*

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New York Public Library

I was just in New York for a couple days, and visited an exhibit currently on display at the New York Public Library. It is titled The A B C of It: Why Children's Books Matter, and I enjoyed viewing the variety of material that was being shown from the library's collection. Among other things there were:

3 original illustrations by W. W. Denslow for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. As always, original art is fascinating to view, for the chance of seeing the thought and changes that occurred in the drawing process. The central image of the Tin Woodman is particularly nice; in the original book, the drawing was published with text printed over the background ( which was printed in pale blue), and consequently the details of the trees were far less visible.
The original stuffed animals that inspired Winnie the Pooh. Poor Eeyore is pretty heavily patched, and rumor has it that Roo fell victim to a dog in the distant past!
P. L. Traver's parrot handled umbrella, and the wooden doll that inspired Mary Poppins. (The Poppins costume was a later addition to the doll!)
Four of John Tenniel's original pencil illustrations for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The drawings were reversed when they were engraved onto woodblocks for printing.
It's always great fun to see pieces of this sort, the elements that go into and inspire classic children's books.The show runs through March 23rd, 2014.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blue Bell Inn

At the Blue Bell Inn features another of W. W. Denslow's cover designs for Rand McNally, from 1898.

Denslow created quite a few covers for the publisher this year, and I find them interesting in that they show off a few different general styles - those done more or less in fine line,  those with crests, and those in his bolder poster style. 
What I think of as the bolder poster style can be seen in the examples above. These all have larger blocks of color, and striking imagery.
 Examples of the crest style can be seen above. These all feature coats of arms, or other armorial designs and are, on the whole, a bit less interesting.
The finer drawing style is shown above. These are titles that, at first glance, don't necessarily catch my eye as Denslow designs. I also have not seen any examples of these particular titles bearing the Denslow seahorse.

These are only a few of the Rand McNally covers from 1898, but they are an interesting sampling - Denslow did enjoy variety!