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Dating The Wizard of Oz

by Liz Holderman (09/04/08).
1900 First Edition Cover of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Many old books do not include publication dates. Copyright dates, which are often incorrectly used to determine a book’s age, are usually much earlier than actual publication dates, because most classic books were eventually produced by a variety of publishers and sometimes with a variety of different illustrators. L. Frank Baum’s many Wizard of Oz books were produced in various editions, often with no publication dates.

The following guidelines, sorted by titles, can aid in identifying the age of the different editions.

- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – The first edition of the first book in Baum’s series was published in 1900 (with a copyright date of 1899). It was illustrated by W. W. Denslow and published by George M. Hill Company.

- The New Wizard of Oz – Bobbs-Merrill published this title in1903 from the original George M. Hill plates (with minor changes) and published further editions between 1920 and 1925, although the copyright date still read “1903”. (The only way to tell the true age of the Bobbs-Merrill editions is via fine textual points, illustration coloring, endpaper styles and cover styles.) Bobbs-Merrill also printed a Photoplay version in 1925 (in conjunction with the silent film The Wizard of Oz featuring Dorothy Dwan) and an MGM studio version in 1939. In 1944, the publisher again re-issued the book, but this time with new illustrations by Evelyn Copelman.

- Reprint publisher M. A. Donahue produced an edition with this title in 1913 from leased Bobbs-Merrill printing plates.

- The Wizard of Oz Waddle Book – Blue Ribbon Books used the original Bobbs-Merrill plates to create a version in 1934 with 6 die-cut “waddle” toys (which, when assembled, would waddle down a sloping yellow brick road).

- The Wizard of Oz Picture Book – Whitman Publishing Company produced a small book stitched with saddle wire on textured stock with illustrations signed by “Leason” in 1939.

- The Story of the Wizard of Oz – Whitman published this title in 1939, illustrated by Henry E. Vallely.

- The Wizard of Oz – Reprint publisher Grosset and Dunlap produced a version in 1939 illustrated by Oskar Lebeck.
The Saalfield Publishing Company printed their version of this title in 1944 illustrated by Julian Wehr.
Reilly & Lee Company published this title in 1956 illustrated by Dale Ulrey.

From 1926 to 1947, London publisher Hutchinson & Company produced several versions with this title. They used a scattering of Denslow’s illustrations, movie stills and other various adaptations. A version in 1947 also included color plates by H. M. Brock.

After the success of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum produced many additional titles in the series. But he and illustrator W.W. Denslow parted ways due to creative differences and ownership issues. John R. Neill, a much more talented artist, became the illustrator for the remainder of the books. These titles were produced in chronological order as follows:

- The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) later changed to The Land of Oz

- Ozma of Oz (1907)

- Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (1908)

- The Road to Oz (1909)

- The Emerald City of Oz (1910)

- The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)

- Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)

- The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)

- Rinkitink in Oz (1916)

- The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)

- The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)

- The Magic of Oz (1919)

- Glinda of Oz (1920)

Most of the early versions of these books contain the original copyright dates but no publication dates. However, dating these books, for the most part, is relatively easy by following a few simple points:

1) Reilly & Britton published all the first editions between 1904 and 1918 (the last title they produced was The Tin Woodman of Oz). In some cases, Reilly & Britton published more than one edition. The true first edition of The Road to Oz has tinted internal pages in pastel colors. The true first edition of The Emerald City of Oz has a front cover of several characters in a coach traveling through the city, with distinctive metallic green highlights.

2) Reilly & Lee published reprints and subsequent editions from 1919 until the mid-1930s, when the internal color plates were replaced with black and white illustrations. Therefore, if the books do not contain internal color plates, they are newer than 1935.

3) In the 1960s, the color covers with paste-on illustrations were replaced with white covers and stamped-on illustrations. These versions are very prolific and contain only the copyright dates, although they are actually 50 years newer.

4) Dover Publications issued paperback versions of the Oz series in the 1960s and 1980s.

5) William Morrow published editions in the 1980s.

6) Coles Publishing in Canada also produced some titles in the 1980s.

Modern editions usually contain new publication dates and are easier to recognize as new.

Multitudes of offshoots have also been produced in various sizes and titles, too many to mention here. These include editions by W.W. Denslow (with no mention of Frank Baum), versions written by other authors after Baum’s death, junior condensed versions, boxed sets, small-size stories in a 1913 Little Wizard Series and 1932 Jell-O booklets, among many others.

The best guide for dating and identifying all early editions of Oz books is Bibliographia Oziana by Douglas Greene and Peter Hanff, published by the International Wizard of Oz Club. It contains all of the textual, style, illustrative, advertising and thickness points which differentiate the various versions and explains the printing history of each book. It also includes photographs of the books’ covers.

2 Responses to “Dating The Wizard of Oz”

  1. Erma Martinez says:

    I have a book, which my mother-in-law had in her garage for over 60 years. It is titled, “The Wizard of Oz” on the outside, but inside on the 1st page, “The New Wizard of Oz”. by L. Frank Baum, illustratons by Leonard Weisgard, Junior Deluxe Editions, Garden City, NY, copyrights: 1900, 1928, 1931, 1944 (by the Bobbs-Merrill Co.) This book does not have a jacket; but it is in very good condition!

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