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

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Road/Baum's Own Book

 In 1910, Reilly and Britton published Baum's Own Book for Children. This was a repackaging of an earlier title, L. Frank Baum's Juvenile Speaker, with a new title and cover design. This book is a compilation of bits from Baum's previously published books - the cover claim"With Many Hitherto Unpublished Selections" is certainly untrue!

Just as the book is repackaged, the cover design is a repackaging of sorts, made up of bits from the prior year's Oz title, The Road to Oz.

In The Road to Oz, John R. Neill created a pair of alternating chapter headings. One was a sort of ornamental shield, and the other was a ring of children's faces; both were used as frameworks with story-specific illustrations in the center. The ring of children became the main motif on the cover of Baum's Own Book.

This illustration has always struck me as odd within The Road to Oz, due to the manner in which it was printed. Each appearance seems soft and slightly blurred, with vertical white lines running throughout the image. It lacks the crispness of Neill's usual pen work, which is amply displayed throughout the book. Presumably, this was to create a half-tone image, but it comes across as a poorly made printing plate!

In 1910 the same ring of children was used for the cover of Baum's Own Book for Children, but there are definite differences between the two versions. While the illustration used in The Road to Oz is soft, the book cover is sharply printed. The circle has been opened out on both sides, requiring some adjustment to the curve - and suddenly we see fuller versions of two faces!
Within the ring are drawings of the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion. These are each taken from Road illustrations, but with adjustments. The Lion is from the copyright page, with a bit of straightening and a great reduction in the amount of cross-hatching.
The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are taken from a full page drawing of the characters inside Ozma's palace. For the use on Baum's Own Book, the characters have been cropped and cleaned up, and the Tin Woodman has been reversed. He's also had an arm added!
This all seems like a lot of re-working to put into a cover, but I suppose it was cheaper than hiring Neill to create something new. Presumably the printer would have done this without Neill's assistance, working with existing art. The book itself (without any color plates) cost the same price as the other, more elaborate, Baum books that were available at the time - it hardly seems fair!


Bell-Snickle said...

What a beautiful, clean copy!

Bill Campbell said...

It's actually a dust jacket copy - the jacket did its job well!