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

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yet another Rand McNally title with a cover by W. W. Denslow....

This is Alaska, written by A. P. Swineford, who was Governor of the District of Alaska from 1885 to 1889. The book is from 1898, and features a Denslow landscape across the cover and spine, as well as a Russian crest on the rear cover, and what I believe is an American eagle on the front. There is a totem on the spine, and Denslow's seahorse signature is above the author's name on the front cover.

This was written not long after the discovery of gold in the Klondike region, but Swineford states in his introduction that he is purposely avoiding reporting on that subject, as the daily press is a better resource for information!

A fun feature of the book is a large map which is folded and attached to the rear endpaper - this does point out the areas where gold was discovered.

The landscape cover brings to mind Denslow's work on Told in the Rockies and Shifting Sands, or The Waters of Caney Fork, all of which feature extended landscape images. I like the effect of the design running across the entire book, and it gives Denslow more scope for his illustration.

Incidentally, Swineford's wife was named Psyche Flower. That conjures up an image!

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Neill Endpapers

Here are some more of John R. Neill's early color endpaper designs, used by Reilly & Britton on books by L. Frank Baum. It's a shame that the color endpapers were dropped after Tik-Tok of Oz (1914), as the bright images really do whet your appetite for the story to follow.

For John Dough and the Cherub (1906) and Ozma of Oz (1907), Neill used a similar format in his endpaper designs. Both have the same red and black stripes at top and bottom, containing the action-packed image. In the Ozma drawing, we have a typical case of Neill creating a fun image that has nothing to do with the actual story - I'd be very surprised to find the Nome King intermingling so easily with the other Oz characters! John Dough also features a scene not found in the actual story - although the idea of the Mifkits trying to exact some revenge on Para Bruin, the rubber bear, isn't too far-fetched!

There is a similar stripe again in the design for Sky Island (1912). I'm showing this paired with its companion volume, The Sea Fairies (1911). The Sea Fairies has a very different look than most of the other color endpapers by Neill. Rather than the fine pen & ink style generally seen, this drawing has the rougher appearance of graphite or conte crayon on textured paper - a very different look, but one that Neill used frequently in other artwork.

Another unusual combination is seen in the original endpapers for The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904). Neill's drawing was combined with a photo of Fred Stone and David Montgomery in their respective roles as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman from the stage production of The Wizard of Oz. As this second Oz title was written with both eyes on the stage possibilities, this seems like an appropriate tie-in. But contemporary readers might be a little confused - it's not Ray Bolger and Jack Haley!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Winter Baum Bugle

The Winter 2009 Baum Bugle has arrived, highlighting The Road to Oz which was published in 1909, 101 years ago. Among the various articles is one by editor Scott Cummings, pointing out a number of the fun details and enigmas contained within John R. Neill's elaborate illustrations for this book. It inspired me to take another look and show an additional item I've noticed within the illustrations.

Within the chapter heading drawing shown to the right, scanned from a later printing of the book, there are a quite a few portraits of Oz characters and unidentified people/creatures.

We can see Jack Pump- kinhead, the Tin Woodman, Toto, a possible witch, and an un- identified man in the garland on the left side. On the right, the Wizard and the Scarecrow are clear, as well as a couple others who aren't as easily identified. On the two stems of greenery next to the Shaggy Man's portrait are several other faces, cleverly concealed within the berries. This kind of cleverness and attention to detail is what made me a huge fan of Neill's artwork.

Another fun detail, which is mentioned in the article, occurs in the drawing of John Dough's arrival at the Emerald City. In the branches of the tree, we can see an orchestra of birds, apparently all owls, with large and small drums, cello, and two different horns. They are accompanying another owl who is singing from a song sheet. This grouping is very reminiscent of the bunny bands Neill would draw in future projects. An example is shown below, from the collection of the Neill family.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Neill Endpapers

After posting about some of W. W. Denslow's endpaper designs, it's only fair to look at some of John R. Neill's work. One of the great things about the Oz series is the quantity of illustrations, which spill over to preliminary pages and onto the endpapers of the books. Only one Oz book was published without pictorial endpapers, The Wishing Horse of Oz from 1935.
Neill found a number of ways to incorporate the Oz logo into quite a few of his endpaper designs. The first two shown are the early ornate color endpapers seen in Dorothy and the Wizard and The Road to Oz. Oz titles through Tik-Tok of Oz all included color in the endpapers, as part of the unique features of the books.

Beneath these, we see Grampa in Oz, using the logo as a border element, and The Hungry Tiger of Oz where the Oz logo seems to have been dropped into the picture for no particular reason.

In the four examples above, Neill used simple bold images featuring the logo and characters from the stories - The Lost King of Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, The Silver Princess in Oz and Lucky Bucky in Oz.

The Cowardly Lion of Oz uses it subtly, as decoration on the lion's blanket, and The Giant Horse of Oz has one of my favorite designs - a wild game of hoops, featuring the logo in various sizes!