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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Letter From Baum

As a popular children's author, L. Frank Baum received many letters from his young readers. He refers to the volume of correspondence in many of his book introductions, and declares that the letters supply ideas for his stories.

This letter is a recent acquisition, and a nice example of the effort Baum took to respond to his readers. It was written in 1908, in reply to a letter from Master Sam Cleag Field, of Knoxville, Tennesee. Master Field was about 10 years old at the time, and apparently had sent some drawings to L. Frank Baum. It's too bad Sam's letter and drawings don't still exist - I'd love to see them! In his response, Baum writes:
My dear Sam:

I was very glad to get your nice letter, with the pictures you drew, and to know that you like my books.

I think you are very clever to be able to make all my queer characters, and I wish I could see them all. One little boy sent me a Mifkit he had made, the other day, and it looked just like a Mifkit.

If you think best, I won't end the Tin Woodman and the others, but save them to use in another story.

I shall hope to hear from you again, Sam, for to be able to make things must be nicer than just to think them.

Always your friend
L Frank Baum
The letter is on stationary from the Hotel Del Coronado, where Baum was staying at the time. It's dated April 20th, 1908, which was prior to the publication of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (issued in June of that year); the first of three Oz books to be written at Coronado.

I like Baum's promise not to "...end the Tin Woodman and the others...". In the introduction to Dorothy and the Wizard, he mentions his regrets that he knows other stories he would like to write - but the children want Oz. Of course, Baum would attempt to leave Oz behind two years later - but his fans would not let him.

The stationary itself is rather fun, with the nautical logo and a place to write in the noon day's temperature. I picked up an example of the hotel's current stationary, but in comparison I think it lacks some of the charm.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oz Anniversary

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the classic MGM film The Wizard of Oz. When the movie was originally released in 1939, new editions of the original book were published by both the American publisher Bobbs Merrill, and the English publisher Hutchinson. Reilly and Lee, the publishers of the rest of the Oz series but not the first book, also produced new editions of three older titles - Land of Oz, Scarecrow of Oz and Tin Woodman of Oz - clearly hoping to ride the wave of publicity for the movie.
Of all these books, the English edition is the most interesting. The cover and dust jacket have a full color wraparound design featuring a scene from the film, plus there are 8 additional color plates of characters from the movie. These are publicity stills that have been colorized. On the downside, many of the Denslow illustrations have been dropped, and those that remain are printed in black and white.

The American version features a new dust jacket design, with artwork based on Denslow's illustrations. The endpapers are printed in sepia with stills of characters and scenes from the film. The interior is very much the same as the English version, but rather than the color plates of movie characters, there are still 8 two-color plates by Denslow. The English edition does seem to have tried harder!

Reilly and Lee come in a distant third with their efforts - the three titles produced are slightly over-sized with new cover designs by an anonymous artist. While the covers are colorful, I would prefer to have seen what John R. Neill might have come up with for new covers - after all, he had already re-designed several other Oz titles!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Winkie Con

This past weekend was the 50th annual Winkie Con, the longest running Wizard of Oz convention. It was a fun filled weekend, featuring panels and programs on everything from L. Frank Baum's connections to the San Diego area (the site of the convention), to examinations of feminism and masculinity in the Oz books. There was a slew of special guests drawn from artists, writers and actors who all have a special connection to Oz. I even served as a panelist!

An exhibit of costumes worn by Judy Garland during her career, including this one from The Pirate (a favorite of mine), was displayed by collector Michael Siewart.
An Oz costume contest is a traditional part of the convention, and a number of contestants turned out in full regalia.
The Saturday evening program was a recreation of the 1913 stage show The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a production that hasn't been seen in 100 years - the photo below, taken by Atticus Gannaway, shows the cast in action.
An auction of rare and vintage Oz items is also a traditional part of the convention, taking place Saturday morning and afternoon. There were many opportunities to add a new piece to a collection.
On Sunday, an additional event was brunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Baum spent time at this hotel over the course of several years, while working on some of his early Oz books. We also happened to pass the house where Baum and his family lived after leaving the hotel, before they moved to Hollywood. I believe it may be the only L. Frank Baum residence still standing.
At the convention, a new edition of the book Queen Ann in Oz was introduced. This was the first time my partner Irwin and I, illustrators of the story, met the authors Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag (photo below by Jay Davis).  The new edition includes a new story about the kingdom of Oogaboo, and may be purchased through Lulu.com.