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 This book is a compilation of bits from Baum's previously published books - the cover claim"With Many Hitherto Unpublished Selections" is certainly untrue!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!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Times - Herald

Here is one of W. W. Denslow's earliest posters, from 1895, celebrating the newspaper merger of the Chicago Times and the Chicago Herald. In whimsical fashion, Denslow has shown the Times as a bride, while the Herald is indeed a herald - I particularly like the tunic with an emblem of an ink pot and crossed quills!

This is inscribed in the lower border: "Compliments of Denslow Very Very Rare". On the back is another notation: "Out of Print / Presented with compliments of the artist". Clearly the original owner of the poster was acquainted with Denslow! According to the Hearn/Greene biography of Denslow, this may have been his first poster design.

This piece dates before the time of Denslow's regular use of the hippocampus, or seahorse, emblem. An interesting point is that this poster was made in two sizes - here is the larger size, from the NYPL digital archive. The image has been completely redrawn for each version, with a number of differences in the details!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


I first saw this full page drawing from The Road to Oz about a dozen years ago, at the home of an illustration dealer, and was immediately taken by it - as who wouldn't be! I never expected to own it, but about a year and a half ago it became a prize piece in my collection. Here we see Dorothy and her companions - the Shaggy Man (with a donkey head), Button Bright (with a fox head), Polychrome and Toto - captured by the Scoodlers, creatures with two-faced removable heads, who would like nothing better than to make soup out of the travelers!

Many of the surviving original drawings for Road to Oz have sketches on the back of the board, for other drawings in the book. This one is no exception, although it is a small and very sketchy sketch. This is for the scene of the Shaggy Man catching the heads of the Scoodlers and tossing them into a cavern, as he and the others escape. There are also a number of numerical doodles and sums, something else that's not uncommon on John R. Neill art!

The Road to Oz is considered to contain some of Neill's finest and most elaborate work, and it's easy to see why when examining the many whimsical details on the Scoodlers in this drawing. Sadly, much of the crisp line work is lost in reproduction, especially in later printings of the book.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Julia Dyar Hardy

This copy of Jack Pumpkinhead, one of the Snuggle Tales, is a recent acquisition. This copy happens to be in its original dust jacket, which is always a bonus on a children's book!

When Reilly & Britton published their series of Baum's Snuggle Tales in 1916-17, they bypassed John R. Neill for new cover designs and instead used Julia Dyar Hardy. I haven't been able to find out much about Hardy, other than the fact that she did illustrate other books at that time.

Another example of her work in a Reilly & Britton title is Betty's Policeman; she also provided illustrations for the series of Snip and Snap books, for the Volland company, the publishers of Ruth Plumly Thompson's Perhappsy Chaps and Princess of Cozytown.

In Hardy's Snuggle Tale covers we do get to see a few Oz celebrities - Jack Pumpkinhead, Tip, and the Sawhorse are shown above, and a Scarecrow doll appears on the cover of Once Upon a Time. The Gingerbread Man shows John Dough, who does make a cameo appearance in The Road to Oz. But the Yellow Hen (featured on the book of the same title) isn't Billina - instead it's an earlier hen from a story in Mother Goose in Prose.