Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Seawolf Press Reprints L. Frank Baum's Oz Books

Print on demand opened up a wide world of publishing opportunities, although it has its limitations. Yet for public domain texts it means a wide number of editions featuring just the text sometimes with just barely passable layout.

Meet the folks at Seawolf Press, who invited me to peruse some of their new reprints of L. Frank Baum's books. I was given a pick of titles and selected three books that used a lot of graphic elements: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Ozma of Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Many of the other Oz books simply used line art and color plates. These three used color printing on the pages. Thus, these three would be the most difficult to reproduce.

Rather than simply doing a photo facsimile of the books (you can get nearly that with Dover and Books of Wonder editions) these have new layouts while reworking the illustrations to fit in them. All of these are black and white, so color plates and color inks are re-rendered as grayscale.

The most daunting of these was definitely The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It's mostly a handsome new edition with the original design adapted for a new layout, with now grayscale images under and around the text as well as line art. Sometimes this means a two page spread from the original edition is now two sides of the same page. However, most of the time it works. Some of the art could've looked better, though.

Ozma of Oz fares even better, with just about no complaints with the treatment of the art, which all looks fine.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz, looking at the cover, it became clear why this one would look fine in black and white: the images for it were sourced from a White Edition with Dick Martin's redraw of the cover clearly visible, the Road to Oz endpapers replacing the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman riding the Cowardly Lion and Hungry Tiger images. To be fair, reprinting the White Edition version isn't a bad choice as Dick Martin did a great job reworking the art to look good without color, and his take on the front cover—adapted from the original's dustjacket—is rather more pleasing. That means those endpapers and the original cover design (Scraps hanging out with her title solo) are the main casualty here.

There are a wide variety of editions of the Oz books on the market, from collectible editions to antiques to scores of paperbacks and other editions, but the Seawolf Press editions attempt to put the books in a uniform format. At present, they only offer the fourteen Baum titles in terms of Oz and directly related literature.

Without perusing all of the titles (I'm wondering how the color plates of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz fared now), I'd say that these editions are a good option for picking up the books as uniform paperbacks. While Dover reprinted the books in a uniform size as well, these also have a uniform cover design and a full set would look nice on a shelf.

1 comment:

Sam said...

Even though you gave them a brief description, I am very curious to see photos or scans of what the pictures and pages actually look like now ... especially the "two page spread [becoming] two sides of the same page".