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

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Patchwork Girl?

This past weekend was the last of the large antique/flea markets at the local State Fairgrounds. As usual, I took a wander through to see if there were any wonderful finds to be made. I saw a few Oz related items, but what I ended up buying were several small vintage patchwork quilt segments.

Back in February 2008, Antique Doll Magazine featured an interesting article on Patchwork Girl dolls. These appear to have generally been homemade items, and several photos were included of various dolls. So - having run across the raw material, I think I need to make a Patchwork Girl! I'm a fairly crafty person, so I think I can manage it. The fabrics are in somewhat rough shape, but I think that will add to the vintage quality. We'll see how it turns out, and I'll post it here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Here's another book that was a favorite of mine as a kid. I think this was the first version of The Wizard of Oz with actual pop-ups - the Julian Wehr edition had movement, but nothing actually rose from the page. I remember running across this book in a grocery store as a kid, and asking my mother to buy it. It's a simple but surprisingly faithful adaptation of the story, and includes a lot of proper details - silver shoes, separate visits to the wizard, etc. This was part of a series of pop-up books published by Random House, but I've never tried tracking down any other titles - I believe Pinocchio was one.

The book was published in 1968, and the artwork is very original with a strong 60's flair. I particularly like the bird's eye view of the cyclone lifting Dorothy's house - a clever idea. Of course, Kansas looks far more colorful than the bleak grey state describe in the story!

In 2000, Robert Sabuda created an extravagant pop up version of The Wizard of Oz, with images that literally burst from the pages. I still have a sneaking preference for this earlier, simpler 1960's version - probably because I had it as a child. However, Sabuda was clearly influenced by this edition, particularly in his Emerald City pop-up. He included green glasses, so that a secret message can be read - just as this book did!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Moveable Oz

In 1944, the first moveable Oz book was created by Julian Wehr, who designed a number of moveable books with clever paper engineering. The Wizard of Oz was not a pop-up book, but the six animations are subtle and effective. Sliding a tab from left to right creates movement in the image. In the example I've shown, I particularly like Toto's sudden appearance!

The Wehr family has started to reissue a couple of Julian Wehr's books - maybe this title will become available again. Their website is www.wehranimations.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Psychedelic Oz

Here's another childhood relic. This album of The Wizard of Oz, by Tale Spinners for Children, is from sometime around 1969. I've always found this cover design intriguing, because the image really put a 1960's spin on the characters. Dorothy looks like Goldie Hawn in a mini-dress, and the strange proportions of the characters make the whole thing feel very psychedelic! The back of the album cover advertises a number of other story records, but none have the sophisticated cover art of The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Merry Go Round in Oz

Merry Go Round in Oz, published in 1963, was the last of the Oz books published by Reilly & Lee, and the only one published in my lifetime - although I was too young to know anything about it! This was written by the mother and daughter team of Eloise and Lauren McGraw, and illustrated by Dick Martin - his first full length Oz book. In 1989, Dick Martin designed a new cover for the first reprint edition of this book.

By this point in the series, the variety of authors and illustrators involved in creating the books makes the late sequels feel a good deal less cohesive to me. I'll admit to preferring the earlier books, but it's still amazing to see what a long run the original book inspired. This title is the end of the forty book "Oz Canon", the run of books considered by many to be the Oz series. Quite a few titles have been written since, although relatively few have had widespread distribution.

The International Wizard of Oz Club published a second Oz book by the McGraws in 1980, titled The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, again with illustrations by Dick Martin. In 2001, Hungry Tiger Press published The Rundlestone of Oz, which was Eloise McGraw's last book. This was illustrated by Eric Shanower.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Neill Miscellany

Here are a couple odds & ends by John R. Neill. The Girl Graduate was published by Reilly & Britton and intended to be used as a school scrapbook. It's not an uncommon book, but this is the only copy I've run across with the Neill cover. This is taken from a finished watercolor, and is the only illustration he provided for this book. The other copies I've seen are of a later edition with a totally different cover design.

Bob Thorpe, Sky Fighter in the Lafayette Flying Corps is an adventure tale of World War I, with a cover, a couple full page illustrations and a number of small spot drawings by Neill. This was published by Harcourt Brace and Howe in 1919, and seems to be a bit difficult to find - at any rate, I haven't seen very many copies listed.

Another book with a number of illustrations by John R. Neill is From Pillar to Post, by John Kendrick Bangs, and published by The Century Co. Bangs was an author and humorist who traveled extensively on a lecture circuit in the early 1900s. In this book from 1916, he tells a number of stories and what might be called human interest pieces concerning his travels. The stories in the book were originally published as magazine articles.

Neill provided 30 small spot illustrations within the text, but not in his fantasy style. There is one drawing that I particularly like that is a bit more fantastic, with people pressed in books.

The cover and jacket for this book were designed by the Decorative Designers, the same company that designed the floral borders on the Aunt Jane's Nieces series, and Sam Steele covers. I always enjoy finding connections of that sort.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Neill Illustration

Here's another piece of original art by John R. Neill. This is an intriguing drawing, apparently of some sort of domestic quarrel. The woman's unusual outfit is quite a contrast to the man's sober suit - I particularly like her checkered cap!

The technique is interesting, as it is done in pencil and ink on coquille board. Coquille board is an illustration board with a pebbled surface, used by illustrators to create halftones in their artwork for reproduction. I've posted a close up on the right to show the effect. I'm not familiar with many Neill drawings done this way.

I haven't been quite able to decide whether this is actually a finished drawing or not. The areas that are inked have been very carefully selected, to accent the overall image. There are no indications to show that it was ever published.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


John R. Neill drew several strikingly similar illustrations of swans in flight. I mentioned in some earlier comments that the frontispiece color plate for Andersen's Fairy Tales featured wild swans, from the story of that name. This was one of three finished watercolors for the book, and this book is one of the few to use finished paintings by Neill.

This image makes me think of the drawing of Glinda flying in her swan chariot, from The Lost Princess of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. This was drawn about five years before the Wild Swans. The swirl of the flying swans in the air is very similar in both pieces.

Another lovely watercolor is the painting created for the endpapers of Peter and the Princess. Here again we see a swirling group of swans, this time landing in a lake. The original of this piece is being auctioned Sept. 17th by Bloomsbury Auction House, as part of the Fred Meyer collection.

Another Oz piece, this time with a single swan, is the drawing of the diamond swan, from Glinda of Oz - the diamond studded bird is the result of a spell on a character in the book. I always thought it might be interesting for Glinda to adopt this swan as the leader of her pack - unfortunately, the swan is so vain it would probably never agree to such work.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rachel Cosgrove

By the time Hidden Valley of Oz was published in 1951, the Oz books had been around for 50 years. This title introduced both a new Oz author, Rachel Cosgrove, and a new illustrator, Dirk Gringhuis.

I can't say I'm fond of Dirk's illustrations - for me, they lack the fanciful charm that was always present in the work of John R. Neill, even on his off days. They do give the book a very contemporary 1950's feeling, and this was the start of a time period when Reilly & Lee made several attempts to update the Oz books, with new covers and new illustrations. Eventually, they reverted to the originals.

For many years this was the only Oz book published by Rachel Cosgrove, but in 1993 the International Wizard of Oz Club published her second Oz title, The Wicked Witch of Oz. This was illustrated by Eric Shanower. Hungry Tiger Press has also published several short Oz pieces by Cosgrove.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ozma/Sleeping Beauty

Sometime in 1907-1908, John R. Neill drew a set of illustrations for Sleeping Beauty for the Children's Stories That Never Grow Old series. These were originally published in the Philadelphia North American newspaper, and later as individual story books.

I find it interesting that the images of the Princess are clearly influenced by Neill's illustrations of Princess Ozma from the Oz series. The poppies in the hair, practically a trademark characteristic of Ozma, are present and make sense in this case. Poppies have long been associated with sleep and death, and the soporific power of the poppies tie in well with the 100 years sleep. In Greek mythology, Hypnos and Thanatos are twin brothers representing sleep and death - they are often pictured in conjunction with poppies. And L. Frank Baum made memorable use of this symbolism with the deadly poppy field in the first Oz book.

Neill placed poppies in Ozma's hair in his first illustrations of her, in The Marvelous Land of Oz, and continued to use them throughout the series. I wonder if his idea was to represent a reminder of her years under enchantment - either as years asleep, or dead to the world?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In 1929, John R. Neill created a new cover for Ozma of Oz . Reilly & Lee had been using the original Reilly & Britton dust jacket drawing as the book cover, and obviously felt it could use an update - the old cover was more of a publishers advertisement than an eye-catching image.

For the new cover, Ozma is shown pushing aside a set of curtains. Neill found curtains to be a useful device in a number of his Oz illustrations. These were effective means of revealing a character, or obscuring a scene. They obviously worked well, because I've always remembered these particular pictures.

In Ozma, Ozma pushes aside the drapes as she moves forward to make her final guess in the Nome King's room of ornaments.

In Tik-Tok, Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule are seen after their arrival in the Emerald City palace.

In Lost Princess, Dorothy is shown discovering the loss of Ozma and her magic tools.

In Magic, Ozma is pulling aside a curtain to enter on her birthday feast and presents.

In Jack Pumpkinhead, the Baron and his Princess are revealed.

And of course, the MGM film does have the famous line "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Jack Snow

After John R. Neill's death in 1943, the Oz series came to a stop. It was revived by Jack Snow, a fervent admirer and collector of L. Frank Baum's work, and author of The Magical Mimics in Oz (1946), and The Shaggy Man of Oz (1949). In these two Oz titles, Snow ignored any incidents occurring after Glinda of Oz, and worked only with characters created by Baum or himself. I enjoy these stories, but these are the first to be illustrated by someone other than Neill, and the combination of new author as well as new illustrator make them feel a little odd to me. Frank Kramer was a friend of Snow's, and he was in the unenviable position of replacing Neill, who had illustrated the last 35 books!

Who's Who in Oz is a bit of an Oz oddity - This book from 1954 is an alphabetical listing of over 600 Oz characters, from the 39 books then in print. Plot summaries of each title are also given, as well as biogaphical sketches of authors and illustrators from the series. The dust jacket for this books takes its image from the endpapers of The Royal Book of Oz, and I think is an inspired choice.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Two Neill Books

Here are another pair of later books with illustrations by John R. Neill.

I've always thought this edition of Andersen's Fairy Tales was an odd book. It was published in 1922 by Cupples and Leon, and is illustrated in black and white by an unknown artist. Neill provided a cover and two color plates for the book, which strikes me as a strange number of color plates. One is used as a frontispiece, and the other is lost within the book. These were finished watercolors, and it would have been nice to see a more complete suite of illustrations for this title.

Another book to use Neill's illustrations was King Arthur and His Knights, published in 1924 by Rand McNally. This book takes the opposite approach from Andersen's Fairy Tales - the cover and color illustrations are by Mead Schaeffer, and Neill provided a handful of pen drawings - generally at the beginning of each "book" of the story. The drawings are vignettes rather than full scenes, but it's fun to see some Arthurian illustrations by Neill.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Peter and the Princess

John R. Neill didn't illustrate many books after the 19-teens, other than the Oz series. A notable exception to this is Peter and The Princess, which was published by Reilly & Lee in 1920. This title was was an elaborate gift book, and a showcase for John R. Neill's artwork, containing 8 beautiful color plates, plus color title page, endpapers, and cover - eleven images in all.

These illustrations were taken from finished watercolors, rather than ink drawings with color added by the printers, and the book was sold in a decorative box. I do find it a bit odd that Neill didn't create any ink drawings for the book, since he was such a master of that medium. But the watercolors are lovely, and I believe most of them remain in the Neill family today.

Two years ago I had an opportunity to visit with Jory Mason, one of Neill's granddaughters. This was a memorable occasion, as I was able to view a great deal of original artwork at the time. As a bonus, she had a large quantity of pieces belonging to her Aunt which were being returned shortly after my visit. Among these were several of the watercolors for this book, and it was a thrill to see them in person.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Denslow Cover

The cover for Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story is a little different from some of the other covers W. W. Denslow designed for Rand McNally. The design is very sedate and much more linear, lacking any bold blocks of color. As this title is not a novel, but a biography of the American sculptor/author, this restrained approach seems most appropriate. The images of a quill, mallet, laurel wreath and lamp all reflect the subject of the book. Story lived much of his life in Rome, and his home there became a gathering place for many famous people of his day.

My copy of this book is a somewhat worn ex-library copy, with a card flap and library stamps on various pages. Originally it was given by the author to a childhood friend - there is an inscription on the front endpaper. However, I have to laugh to see that this book has clearly never been read, either by the friend or later by any library patrons; about two thirds of the pages have never been opened!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Illustrated Walls

I've spent a good deal of my life surrounded by Oz in some form or another, but a couple years ago, I took that to a new level. My partner and I had repainted our dining room in a rather uncompromising shade of mustard yellow - something I was a little unsure of then, and am still uncertain about. To give it some additional interest, I decided to try illustrating the walls.

This was accomplished by projecting images of book illustrations on the wall, tracing, and painting them in place. I had a lot of fun, choosing drawings by various artists we collect, and generally sticking to less recognizable characters.

There are quite a few Neill drawings since he's a favorite and they were really well suited to the application. As images were added over time, I couldn't help adding a few classics like Piglet and Pinocchio. There are also images by Edward Gorey, Mary GrandPre, H. J. Ford, H. R. Millar, and Palmer Cox - a bit of a grab-bag of illustrators. There are still a few holes that could be filled; we'll see.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Lucky Bucky

Lucky Bucky in Oz had a British edition published in 1945, by Hutchinson Books. I think an attempt was being made to profit from the MGM film, which was re-released in England in 1944, by issuing the most recent Oz title. No matter how you look at it, it was an odd title to choose when most of the series had never been published in Britain.

This volume is larger than the American Oz books, but considerably thinner due to a new layout for the story and the omission of a few illustrations. A new cover was painted for the dust jacket, based on John R. Neill's original design. I prefer Neill's original, with the stylized stripes of waves, rather than the more realistic ocean.