Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Craig's Bookshelf: The MGM movie editions of The Wizard of Oz

Some may call this heresy, but I'm not too fond of MGM's The Wizard of Oz. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate the fact that it's a great historic film. And I still get chills whenever I hear Judy Garland sing, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I also think that Margaret Hamilton's performance as the Wicked Witch of the West was brilliant. (And by the way, I met her in person - she sat next to me all day at a Munchkin Convention in the early 1980s - and she was a lovely, lovely lady.) But the fact is that my true love is and always has been the book by L. Frank Baum.

Surely you know what it's like to be disappointed by the movie version of a favorite book. I received the white edition of The Wizard of Oz on my fourth birthday in 1971. My mother read it to me, as well as the first few sequels, several years before I ever saw the movie on television. By that time the original tale and the illustrations by W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill were firmly entrenched in my mind. The movie simply didn't match the way I visualized Oz in my imagination. And as a child I was actually insulted that in the movie Dorothy's adventure was just a dream. After all, her visits to Oz in the books were most decidedly real, and for many years I used to hope against hope that maybe, just maybe, Oz was really real, and maybe, just maybe, I would get to go there some day and meet Dorothy and Ozma and everyone else.

But I digress.

Probably the thing I love the most about the movie is that it forever cemented The Wizard of Oz in popular culture. Thanks to Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Frank Morgan, all the little people, and the rest of the folks at MGM, no one will ever, EVER forget America's greatest fairy tale.

And so for those of you whose first love is the movie, I hope you especially enjoy the pictures I'm sharing today of my four MGM editions of The Wizard of Oz. As usual, I collect copies with dust jackets whenever possible.

The dust jackets of the American edition by Bobbs-Merrill are nearly identical. The first printing was issued in 1939, and the second printing came out circa 1942. The second printing is actually much scarcer than the first printing, but the first printing is still more valuable because, well because it's the first printing. As far as I know, the only difference between the dust jackets is that the price listed on the front flap was raised from $1.19 to $1.50.

The difference between the books themselves is much more obvious. The first printing has black bands on the spine; the second printing does not.

Also the endpapers of the first printing show sepia tone stills from the movie, whereas the endpapers of the second printing are blank.

The two British editions were printed by Hutchinson circa 1940. Unlike the American edition, these are not two different printings. Instead they are two different binding variants of the same (and only) printing. The Hutchinson bindings look very different.

Binding A has paper-covered boards, and the boards and jacket have identical art.

Binding B has cloth-covered boards, and the jacket art is different. In fact, Binding B is rather drab without the jacket.

The British editions seem to be considerably scarcer than their American counterparts, and they are especially hard to find in dust jackets. The British editions are also much harder to find in collectible condition. The paper-covered boards of Binding A are fragile, and both bindings have typically suffered from the damp climate in Great Britain. You can see the effects of climate especially well in the picture above of the Hutchinson Binding B. The spine shows discoloration, and the front board is slightly warped. One would usually expect to find a book that has been protected by its dust jacket to be in nearly pristine condition, but as you can see that wasn't the case with my Binding B. I would like to upgrade to a nicer copy of Binding B, but truth be told, this book is scarce in any condition. And the dust jacket is very rare. I'm sure there are other copies out there, but my dust jacket is the only one I've ever seen.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Craig's Bookshelf: The Emerald City of Oz

The publication of L. Frank Baum’s sixth Oz book, The Emerald City of Oz, in 1910 was a blockbuster event. For one thing, Baum had decided to end the series, and this was to be its dramatic dénouement.

Baum weaves a plot in which the villainous Nome King schemes to conquer Oz with the help of a succession of horrible, evil races of creatures - the Whimsies, Growleywogs, and Phantasms.

Meanwhile, Princess Ozma has decided that Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry may live happily ever after in the immortal fairyland. They begin their new life by touring the countryside, visiting strange settlements and meeting queer denizens along the way.

After the Fountain of Oblivion prevents Oz’s obliteration, Ozma decides that this was too close a call. From now on, Oz will be shut off forever from outside visitors through the protection of a Spell of Invisibility. Imagine the shock of Baum’s little readers upon learning that this would be farewell.

Of course modern readers know full well that the children demanded more of their favorite fairyland, and Baum eventually obliged by writing eight more Oz books.

Because it was supposed to be the end of the series, Baum’s publisher, Reilly & Britton, decided to make Emerald City its most elaborate effort. The first printing reproduced 16 full-color paintings by John R. Neill as color plates, each one embellished with metallic green ink.

Telling apart the different printings of this book is fairly easy.

Only the first printing shows the Wizard, Dorothy, Aunt Em, and Uncle Henry riding a carriage drawn by the Sawhorse through the Emerald City, with Ozma, the Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman looking on.

The second printing has a different cover showing Ozma flanked on either side by vase-like devices with the tops of the torsos and heads of the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow popping out. Several successive printings use this same cover design. These later printings can usually be distinguished by noting the list of titles on the verso of the ownership page.

Starting in 1929, the publisher - now known as Reilly & Lee - introduced a third cover depicting Ozma riding the Sawhorse. This is sometimes known as the "Sexy Ozma" cover, and it was used until shortly before the publisher issued its final "white edition" in 1964. (For a brief period between 1959 and 1963, the book was published with a blank cloth cover.)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Craig's Bookshelf: John Dough and the Cherub

Nov. 21 Correction: About that contest blank...

Thanks to Paul Bienvenue for pointing out that the contest blank can also be found in copies of the second printing in Binding A of John Dough and the Cherub. This means that the only 100 percent reliable way to distinguish between a first and second printing is to check for the cage/cave misprint on page 275.

In an email, Paul went on to write:
I suspect that, like Santa Claus, the two "printings" were probably issued simultaneously. There is even a chance that they represent a state change, as with Patchwork Girl, due to a stop-press correction of the cage-for-cave error, which would make them different states of the first printing rather than two separate printings. However, that would make all subsequent R&B issues also "first printings," which is problematic in its own way. The first printing / second printing divide seems the best solution to an ambiguous situation.
The moral of the story is that Oz-Baum bibliography is complicated and entails a certain amount of detective work!

Original blog:

One of my favorite parts of collecting Oz and Baum books is learning how to tell the difference between various printings that look nearly identical to the casual observer. For example, there are only two differences between the first and second printings of L. Frank Baum's children's fantasy of 1906, John Dough and the Cherub.

First, the first printing has a detachable contest blank for “The Great John Dough Mystery” tipped on to the inner margin of page 9. The second printing does not.

Second, the first
printing has a
misprint on page
275 in which the
word “cave" is
printed as “cage.”

        The typo is
        corrected on
        page 275 of
        the second

Another difference between my first and 
second printings is that the first printing is bound in Binding A, whereas the second printing is bound in Binding B.

In Binding A, the publisher’s spine imprint reads “The Reilly & Britton Co.” in large and small capital letters. In Binding B, the imprint is shortened to "Reilly & Britton," and the type is in upper- and lowercase letters. Note that you cannot use this point alone to differentiate between the first and second printings because some second printings were bound in Binding A! To further confuse things, the second printing is found in five different binding states.

Reilly & Lee did something unusual when it reprinted John Dough in 1920; it retained all 12 color plates, but it printed text on the versos of the plates! This is the only Baum or Oz book that I know of with text on the opposite sides of the plates. Needless to say, it's much more serious if your copy of this book is missing a plate because that means it's also missing part of the story.

Reilly and Lee reprinted the book again in 1927, but this time it dropped all the plates except for the color insert facing the title page. The other plates were rendered as full-page black and white illustrations.

At least three other publishers released editions of John Dough and the Cherub. In 1966 March Laumer's Opium Books of Hong Kong issued about 500 copies of a paperback edition with quirky new illustrations by Lau Shiu Fan.

Dover Publications' 1974 edition was also paperback, but it retained John R. Neill's original illustrations.

In 2008 Hungry Tiger Press printed a beautiful hardcover edition, which also included the original illustrations. Twenty-five copies were released as a "deluxe limited edition" that came with a slipcase and place marker ribbon.

As a final note I should add that I didn't figure out how to differentiate between all these books by myself. I rely heavily on The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz by Paul Bienvenue. I consider this book indispensable for anyone who is serious about collecting vintage copies of the Oz and Baum books.

Introducing Craig! And why there aren't a lot of blogs now...

Well, a couple days ago, you guys saw something new on the blog. After seeing some of his neat posts about his large collection of Oz and Baum books on Facebook, I invited editor of The Baum Bugle Craig Noble to post them on the blog.

You may have noticed that I haven't been writing here much lately. To be honest, I try to think of something to blog about and come up with nothing. When I come up with a good topic (which is not often, sadly), it winds up going to another place for publication, such as The Baum Bugle or the Winkie Convention Program Books. I've been writing on the blog for nearly nine years now.

Also, I made the move from being a blogger to also writing Oz fiction and now have to devote a lot of creative energy to that as well. Add in my day to day personal life, and it can get to be a little much to keep up regular blogs.

Another thing is that I recently finished writing the first draft of a new version of The Wonders of Oz documentary. Rather than doing about a dozen episodes of shorts, I wrote a single documentary that can be broken into three parts. I'm hoping to create a much better documentary than what is currently on YouTube and look forward to moving onward to the next step of making it happen.

I hope to get everything straightened out sometime and hope I can get it all into a nice balance, including the blog, but right now, if I'm not able to turn out entries quite as frequently as in the past, please bear with me!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Craig's Bookshelf: The Christmas Stocking Books

Several weeks ago I started posting photos of books from my Oz and Baum collection to the Wizard Of Oz Collectors United! page on Facebook. Jared invited me to cross-post them on the Royal Blog of Oz, so here we go.

Today I’m sharing photos of an item that I had sent to Sophia Bogle of Save Your Books for restoration work. If you’re a member of the International Wizard of Oz Club, then you may remember reading a couple of articles she wrote about book repairs in recent issues of the Baum Bugle.

The item is a "steamer trunk" containing a set of six Christmas Stocking Books, each with an introduction about the origin of the custom of the Christmas stocking written by L. Frank Baum. These tiny little books were first published by Reilly & Britton – the publisher of the Oz books – in 1905. A later printing of the books was issued with the cardboard steamer trunk around 1913.

I bought my trunk and books from Wonderful Books of Oz, which is run by Cindy Ragni. The very fact that the books were still housed in the original trunk means that they were relatively undamaged, although they’re still fragile little books. Unfortunately, the trunk itself was missing the lid.

Now here’s what’s cool. I remembered seeing Bill Campbell's photos of his original trunk and books on his Oz Enthusiast blog. His trunk wasn’t missing the lid. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind sending me a high-resolution scan of the lid (which was intact, but detached), so that Sophia could use it to make a facsimile lid. Lo and behold: not only did Sophia do a beautiful job with the facsimile lid, but she also did some restoration work on the individual books, and she made new glassine wrappers for each book, since that’s the way the set was originally issued.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Captain Fyter, Ku-Klip, Chopfyt, and Nimmie Aimee

One of the big things about The Tin Woodman of Oz is that we get to go back to the story of the Tin Woodman and finally meet some of the characters who were once just part of an anecdote. Baum would rarely go back to old characters who had been left behind. The Good Witch of the North, the Queen of the Field Mice, and even Jack Pumpkinhead vanished or quietly slipped into the background only to receive brief mentions or appearances in the later stories.

You may have noted that Baum took the liberty of revising the Tin Woodman's story in Tin Woodman. While it fits with his very good habit of not leaving audiences in the dark about his characters, this time, the information was crucial to the story. (And also to get the Tin Woodman's backstory otherwise would mean getting a copy of The Wizard of Oz, which was published by a different publisher and Baum had signed over the royalties to pay off debts.) This meant an entire character—Nimmie Aimee's mother—was culled from the proceedings and the Wicked Witch of the East given a larger presence in his tale.

However, as unique and bloody as the Tin Woodman's story was, he discovered that he shared it with another. On his way to find Nimmie Aimee at last, he and his friends found a rusted Tin Soldier, who had a very similar construction. After being oiled, Captain Fyter revealed he also had fallen in love with Nimmie Aimee and was similarly cursed by the Wicked Witch, with his sword chopping off bits of him. While the two Tin Men could have quarreled, they realized that they could allow Nimmie to choose from between them.

Fyter also claimed one advantage over the Tin Woodman: he had brains and a heart. However, he noted that his brains were scraps of tin and when he thinks, they rattle, so he tries not to think. Also, his tin heart is cold and hard.

Captain Fyter joined the Tin Woodman on his quest and they soon found Ku-Klip's shop, where they met the tinsmith who fashioned their tin bodies. Ku-Klip is as kindly and helpful as ever, even offering to make tin legs for the Scarecrow.

However, as the inventor of tin prosthetics, Ku-Klip has a disturbing side. He viewed the creation of the tin bodies as exchange for the "meat" bodies and actually kept them. Remember when I discussed the Tin Woodman's human head in the cabinet? Yep.

The old Tinsmith was seemingly on good enough terms with the Wicked Witch of the East to have her glue a severed finger back on with "meat glue." This compound would join flesh and bones together perfectly, and after the Witch died, Ku-Klip took it. Deciding he needed a hand around the shop, he used the pieces of Nick Chopper and Captain Fyter to create a new man: Chopfyt. He had Captain Fyter's head, Nick Chopper's right arm, but no left arm because Ku-Klip could not find a left one for some reason.

Chopfyt was not much help in the smithy and ate a lot of food. Chopfyt decided to go seek adventure, and Ku-Klip was glad to see him go, giving him a tin arm in good faith.

Ku-Klip was also able to tell the Tin Woodman where Nimmie Aimee went, and sent him off in the direction of Mount Munch. But at Mount Munch, the group found a surprise. Nimmie had met Chopfyt. And married him. Her reasoning is that he reminded her of her lovers as they were before they became tin, and the tin arm reminded her of them afterward.

Strangely, though, Nimmie admits to having forgotten them when she meets them again, so it's a little strange that she'd forget such unusual lovers. But she decided she'd remain faithful to Chopfyt and sent her old loves home again.

And none of these characters reappear in the Famous Forty Oz books. Melody Grandy's Forever in Oz liberates the Tin Woodman's head by giving it a tin body and creates a daughter for Chopfyt and Nimmie, though she notes that Forever is—due to biology—Nick Chopper's daughter. There's a very special ending for Nick, Captain Fyter (who Melody names Feersom), Nimmie, and Chopfyt, but I won't spoil that.