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

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Parrish Letter

Last week, Swann Galleries in New York sold an interesting letter written by Maxfield Parrish. It was to Chauncey Williams of the Way & Williams publishing company, and outlined Parrish's thoughts on the design and costs of illustrating Mother Goose in Prose.

Mother Goose in Prose was published in 1897, and was the first children's book published by L. Frank Baum. An earlier title, Adventures in Phunniland, was already written but would not see publication until 1900, when it was re-titled A New Wonderland.

Parrish's letter is a response to previous correspondence from Williams. In it, he strongly discourages the use of small marginal illustrations for the book. His concept was to provide a cover, frontispiece, title page and 23 chapter headings, each pertaining to a particular story. The cost of that would be $650.00, and he apologizes for the cost, which he feels will be too much. But, he points out:
"...do not think that a small thing is one bit easier to do than a big one. Those little marginal illustrations in order to leave this shop, would have to have just as much care put upon them as the gent with the little gun I sent you."
From this it seems he had already drawn the frontispiece of the book - the Little Man with his Little Gun. Another possibility mentioned in the letter was to do cover, frontispiece, title page and 4 illustrations for $250. In the end, the book was illustrated with cover, frontispiece, title page, a small chapter title which was repeated for each story, and 12 full page drawings. Parrish states that to fully illustrate the book would be cost prohibitive - but a compromise seems to have been reached. 

Another interesting point within the letter is Parrish's opinion on two of the stories. He asks that the mention of a Kodak be removed from the Baa Baa Black Sheep story, and objects to the "dime museum episode" in the Jack Sprat tale. There is no mention of a Kodak in the published book, and the Jack Sprat story vanished completely - leaving 22 tales rather than the original 23. It's interesting to note that the things Parrish objected to were the very things that Baum was trying to bring to his stories - a modern American sensibility laid over a traditional tale.


Glenn Ingersoll said...

That Parrish had some sway!

Bill Thompson said...

That's a great bit of history, there... Did you buy the letter, Bill?

Bill Campbell said...

No, I had a healthy bid on it but it got away.... As you say, it's a fascinating piece of history! There was a small rough sketch on it as well, illustrating what Parrish was considering for the individual chapter headings.