Fashionable and Fanciful Clothing and Accessories: A Selection of John R. Neill’s Imaginative Illustrations in the Oz Books

Introducing a new exhibit in the American Heritage Center’s second-floor loggia!  The exhibit is curated by Anne Marie Lane, Head of the Toppan Rare Books Library and is sure to please Oz fans of all ages!

The munchkin boy Number Nine in his puffy whistlebreeches from "The Wonder City of Oz," published in 1940.

The munchkin boy Number Nine in his puffy whistlebreeches from “The Wonder City of Oz,” published in 1940.

In 1900, W.W. Denslow illustrated the first edition of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But up until 1942 it was John R. Neill who created the cover designs and book illustrations of the other story books revolving around the Land of Oz (Neill died in 1943). The Toppan Rare Books Library is fortunate to have 34 of the 36 early Oz titles (some in multiple copies): all 14 Oz books that L. Frank Baum himself wrote (from 1900 to 1919, with the 1920 Glinda of Oz published posthumously); 18 of the 19 books that his successor Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote (from 1921 to1939); and 2 of the 3 books that John R. Neill himself wrote (from 1940 to1942). The famous movie “The Wizard of Oz” came out in 1939.

This exhibit would not have been possible without several generous book donations to the Toppan Rare Books Library. While a few books had been transferred over from U.W.’s Coe Library in the past, the collection developed with additional books donated by William S. Ryland (of Grand Rapids, Michigan) in 1982 and Robert E. Cummings (of Odessa, Texas) in 1983. Just recently, in February of 2013, George F. Bass (internationally prominent nautical archaeologist and professor emeritus from College Station, Texas) filled in collection gaps with more Oz books and other Baum-related material. Especially noteworthy is the original hand-written manuscript from 1919 (and also a typescript), from when his Mother (Virginia Wauchope) and her brother (Robert Wauchope) wrote an Oz story when they were children. Dr. Bass also sent us the 1993 published version of their story The Invisible Inzi of Oz (illustrated by Eric Shanower), as well as the earlier two-part 1980/1981 publication in the journal Baum Bugle. (Their story had been originally serialized in 1925 and 1926, in A Child’s Garden for Cheerful and Happy Homes.) For more information, and to hear an interview with Virginia Wauchope-Bass from 1994 on Emerald City Radio (originally recorded at WAMU, Texas A & M University), go to “The Wonderful Ouiji of Oz,” blog post written by David Maxine Feb.17, 2012, at http://hungrytigerpress.blogspot.com/2012/02/wonderful-ouija-of-oz.html.

All these new donations made a large teaching display possible for a “Children’s Literature” class, comprised of students from Laramie County Community College, who visited the Toppan library on March 13, 2013. They enjoyed the display inside the library so much that we decided to use part of this set-up for the current loggia exhibit (in cases just outside the library entrance). Every summer the Toppan Library creates a three-case display to supplement the annual “Coat Couture” loggia exhibit of wearable art created by Professor Donna Brown’s class in the U.W. Family & Consumer Sciences Department. These Oz books seemed perfect for this year’s public viewing. When you come to view the exhibit, enjoy the beautiful cover illustrations! Each relates in some way to fashion, clothing history, or sewing!

The exhibit will remain on display into the 2013 Fall semester–so there is plenty of opportunity for you to come and enjoy it!

–Anne Marie Lane,  Head of the Toppan Rare Books Library

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