Archive for July, 2014


Follow the Yellow Brick Road… To the Watkinson?

   Posted by: rring    in Classes, Students

[Posted by Michelle Deluse for AMST 851: The World of Rare Books (Instructor: Richard Ring)]

img948When L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, he created more than a children’s book.  The book inspired a legacy of children’s literature that expands beyond Baum’s own work and includes the many authors inspired to continue creating stories in the world he created.  The world of Oz also inspired a loyal fan base and, for some, a desire to collect and study the works that collectively make up Oziana.  Bibliographia Oziana : A Concise Bibliographical Checklist of the Oz Books by L. Frank Baum and His Successors by Peter E. Hanff & Douglas G. Greene provides a scholarly resource for students and collectors alike with an interest in exploring the Oz books.  Hanff & Greene claim their work, published by The International Wizard of Oz Club, is “founded on and continuing the Baum Bugle checklist,” and the bibliography serves as a “concise, descriptive publishing history of the Oz books” (11).

Hanff and Greene take great care to define what constitutes an Oz book in their introduction.  According to their parameters, books about Oz written by Baum or his successors written in the same format as other Oz books and published by the same firm, Reilly & Britton (later known as Reilly & Lee) can be considered an Oz book (12).  Other books that do not necessarily meet these qualifications, but are generally accepted by the field as Oz books are also listed in this text, but they are included as addenda (12).  Hanff and Greene organize the texts by author, beginning with Baum, and they include any relevant addenda at the conclusion of each author’s section.

Including official Oz books, addenda, and a brief section of “curiosa,” the bibliography catalogues a total of 52 texts and features 8 different authors.  Hanff and Greene credit Baum with a total of 16 Oz books, beginning with the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and ending with Glinda of Oz, the manuscript Baum completed before his death in 1919 (67).  The list of Oz books authored by Baum totals at slightly less than the 19books Ruth Plumly Thompson contributed after Baum’s death.  Baum’s and Thompson’s works constitute the large majority of the Oz books; the other authors listed in the bibliography (John R. Neill, Jack Snow, Rachel R. Cosgrove, Eloise Jarvis McGraw and Lauren McGraw Wagner, W.W. Denslow, and Frank Joslyn Baum) each contributed one to three texts in total.

img949The description of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz reveals how complex the original publication was.  Hanff and Greene indicate that it was “an unusually elaborate book” and represented a “conscious effort of the author and the illustrator… to produce a children’s book that would be as enjoyable to look at as to read” (12).  The emphasis on the visual aspects of the original publication encouraged me to pay closer attention to the visual content of the bibliography itself.  The images included in Bibliographia Oziana : A Concise Bibliographical Checklist of the Oz Books by L. Frank Baum and His Successors enrich the textual information provided.  For example, the bibliography includes a section entitled “Plates,” with photographs of the cover art for titles included in the bibliography.  Each plate is annotated with the page in the bibliography the title depicted appears on, making it easy for the reader to associate something visual with the information provided.  Examining this section of the text allow readers the opportunity to see the changes in style of cover art for Oz books through the years.  For example, the art for the first printing of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz differs greatly from The New Wizard of Oz (a republication of the same text).  A quick glance at the cover art for Hanff and Greene’s work and the plate for The New Wizard of Oz leaves no question that the former took inspiration from the latter (which is also confirmed by a brief note on the verso of the title page of the text).

However, of all the images included in the bibliography, one image is conspicuously absent.  Many modern fans of Oziana (myself included) have  a particular fascination with the Wicked Witch of the West.  Margaret Hamilton’s portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, arguably made the villain famous, and the rise of the popular musical Wicked revived a fixation on her in popular culture.  Due to her popularity, it surprises many readers to learn that the role the Wicked Witch of the West plays in Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is small, and she does not appear in subsequent Oz books.  As such, it is appropriate that she not be heavily featured in the artwork for the books of Oz, since her role is less prominent in the Baum books than it is in the cinematic adaptations of the material.

One entry in the bibliography that I found particularly interesting was The Laughing Dragon of Oz by Baum’s oldest son, Frank Joslyn Baum.  Frank Joslyn Baum wanted to continue his father’s work with books about Oz, so much so that he wrote Rosine in Oz which he later retiled Rosine and the Laughing Dragon.  He had little success in getting his book published, but eventually, the Whitman Publishing Company agreed to publish his book under the title The Laughing Dragon of Oz.  Frank Joslyn Baum and Whitman even planned to publish a sequel until Reilly & Lee took legal action against Whitman.  To settle the suit, Whitman agreed that they would not reprint the book and they would not publish a sequel (102).  I imagine the legal history surrounding The Laughing Dragon of Oz makes it a particularly rare book, as there were a limited number of copies printed before Reilly & Lee filed their suit.  For a collector of Oziana, Frank Joslyn Baum’s work must be highly coveted!

It surprised me that the Watkinson has a number of Oz books within the collection, let alone an academic resource for the study of Oz books, so this bibliographic collection of the books of Oz was an unexpected find.  Delving more deeply into the scholarly perspective on books and stories I loved as a child evoked both a sense of nostalgia and a renewed curiosity and amazement.  If you are a fan of Oz, I encourage you to visit the Watkinson to spend some time with Bibliographia Oziana, or any of the other Oz books in the collection.  It will be well worth your time!