Monday, April 30, 2012
In Other Lands Than Ours
These days, it might be difficult for us to realize how a letter might get circulated since such things have become far more personal. Think of it like an e-mail you'd send to your family, except you send it to one family member and have them send it around. These days, you'd either blog or expect them to keep up with your trip on Twitter or Facebook.
And that is what Maud's letters were: a lot like blogs about her trip overseas: nothing notable and not an item of serious study, but her personal experience and thoughts on what she'd seen.
Apparently, the family was so taken with Maud's delightful letters they wanted to keep them, but upon returning home, Frank had a better idea than splitting the letters up among the family: he collected them all, did some minor editing, and included his photographs and privately printed In Other Lands Than Ours, so family members could have all the letters in a very dignified form.
As I said, Maud writes mainly about her experience. It's been noted her information about what she saw overseas isn't entirely accurate, either by her mis-remembering or mis-hearing information, or the tour information was more interested in good stories for tourists than being accurate.
This trip is important for Baum scholars as it influenced a number of Baum's work: The Last Egyptian, The Boy Fortune Hunters in Egypt, Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad, Daughters of Destiny, and it's also likely he picked up a bit of inspiration that he later molded into characters and places in the Oz books. To have a first hand account of the trip is a great aid.
It also gives a peek into the patriotism Baum and his wife shared, later imparted into characters in The Boy Fortune Hunters and Aunt Jane's Nieces series. There are also a few little bits about Frank himself, he was generally ignorant of the old masters of art, saying "he can tell one old master from another as soon as he reads the name on the frame," and his opinion of an opera they attend is pretty poor.
The edition I have is a new edition by Pumpernickel Pickle with a completely new design. The book had been previously been reproduced as a photo-facsimile by Scholar's Facsimiles and Reprints, but it is now out of print and used copies cost upwards of $40 while the Pumpernickel Pickle one, being print on demand, is a brand new copy for $23. As I type, an original edition is on eBay, and has already passed $200 in bidding. (Still a week left, so it could go pretty high.) I understand that the original and Scholar's edition has the photos at a larger size and thus, clearer, but I'm all right with this one.