Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bradford Exchange - Hit the ROAD, Jack!

I must say that I had some hope that the Bradford Exchange facsimile Road to Oz would be a lovely and pleasant surprise. It's not. It is probably their worst effort so far. The two-color pages in Ozma of Oz were uglier, but some of Ozma was pretty - especially the cover. In the Bradford Road to Oz nothing is pretty, nothing attractive, nothing well done.

In the previous BE releases I could at least praise the cover stamping. On Road they've missed the sandboat. The artwork is reduced in size so that it doesn't fill the full cover area, the spine is very crudely redrawn and reduced even more, and the color of the cloth and the stamping inks is way off.

1st Edition at Left - Bradford at right. CLICK TO ENLARGE

The cloth is a horrid anti-freeze green (the scan above doesn't do it justice!), nothing whatsoever like the original. The light butterscotch brown used in the donkey-headed Shaggy Man has been replaced with a bright sunshine yellow. The copy we received is badly off-register, too. Not only are the colors not well aligned, but the printed inks don't match up with the blind-stamping. (BTW, I am not at all convinced the Oz books ever had any blind-stamping. I think this is probably just a Bradford technique for faking quality cloth-stamping.)

There are some serious printing errors in the text as well. The images of the text and running title are almost all way too high on the page and they are not uniform with one another. In the example below, look how high the text sits on the right-hand page.


There is nothing like this in any of the three first-state copies I have access to as I write this. In all of them the running titles are uniform in height and the text is positioned in the center of the page. One minor quibble, the BE version is much thicker than the three first-states here in the Tiger Den. Perhaps BE couldn't match the paper for both color and thickness? They also chose to leave the edges of the book un-tinted. Personally, I think the blue page-edging is much more attractive than just seeing the rainbow paper. The blue-edging makes the rainbow paper a surprise!

The reproduction in the BE edition is truly horrid. How bad is it? It's so poor I can't find anything to compare it favorably to. Books of Wonder is far better, the 1970s "white edition" is far better. Shockingly, the Del Rey mass market paperback has better reproduction of some illustrations.

CLICK TO ENLARGE
The BE illustrations are all muddy and lacking in detail. And for some reason the ink is gray, not black, which only makes the illustrations even harder to see on the colored paper stock. They are just visually dead. I can not stress enough how terrible the BE reproduction is. Below is a good example from the endpapers - one of Neill's greatest Oz drawings ever. This example features a section of the endpapers showing BE on the left, a 1st state at center, and the 1970s "white edition" at right. This quality of reproduction is pretty typical throughout the BE facsimile.

CLICK TO ENLARGE
Before anyone starts saying, "Oh, but the original is so hard to reproduce; it's printed on that colored paper!" all I can say is "Balderdash!" I have worked with these illustrations quite a bit and it's not hard to reproduce them adequately. In the example below you can see a scan I just made from the 2009 Winkie Con program book. To create it, I scanned my first state copy of Road, generated a PDF, had it printed by a Print-on-Demand printer in the Winkie program book, and then rescanned it tonight from the program book as my blog example. Why is my quick and dirty scan on the left, printed by a POD printer, better and more detailed than BE's crappy facsimile on the right?

CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Road to Oz is generally considered John R. Neill's finest Oz illustration work. Many consider Road the most beautiful Oz book. This should have been the easiest facsimile for BE to pull off. There are no color plates, no arcane printing needs like Wonderful Wizard requires. Yet BE has given us a uniformly ugly book, with gray, blobby illustrations throughout. The book is corrupted with mis-positioned pages and off-register cover stamping. When this printing rolled off the press someone at BE should have taken a look, demanded a do-over, and pulped this entire printing. When some of the illustrations in a $60 facsimile can be bested in reproduction by a Del Rey mass market paperback printed on newsprint, something is seriously wrong.

Don't cha come back no more, no more . . .

15 comments:

Jared said...

There is no excuse for this being sold at almost $60 each (counting in the shipping charge, which I discovered was grossly inflated).

In that image that was also in the 2009 Winkie Program Book (which I just handled not long ago, listing it in my catalog), BE's reproduction makes Dorothy and Button-Bright indistinguishable from each other and the Shaggy Man literally blends in with the background!

Presenting these books like this is a disservice to anyone, especially Baum virgins.

ericshanower said...

Jared, my reaction on seeing the book was similar: "Are they trying to make people hate the Oz books?"

Bill Campbell said...

When I saw the lemon yellow Shaggy Man on the cover, I knew there were going to be problems...I think they reach their peak on page 200 with the virtual ink blot of the Shaggy Man in the Emerald City. The printing of these books is obviously not being overseen properly. My current thought is that I'll hold on through Emerald City, to complete the first six books, but cancel at that point - I can't imagine they will improve.

James C. Wallace II said...

I'm in total agreement with both of you guys. The BE books are a disgrace to the spirit of Baum and Neill. I certainly won't be spending my cash on them and I certainly won't recommend them to anyone!!!

Orin said...

I love this blog. The Road to Oz is an artistic masterpiece. Sucks that BE didn't care enough to give it even an adequate reproduction.

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

@Bill - Eric nearly screamed when he saw the Shaggy Man looking into the mirror illustration. Shaggy's head is a big black blob. That's one of the illustrations I recall where Del Rey is better than BE. Not that Del Rey is the way people ought to see these pictures - but at least in Del Rey you can see what's actually happening in the illustration.

saintfighteraqua said...

I appreciate the time you take showing these to us.
I am stunned that they can even get by with calling these facsimiles.

Marcus said...

I wonder if you're being too harsh on these, when analyzing them as facsimiles. I mean, what if the Bradford Exchange meant them to be FACSIMILES... you know... like on a FAX machine? Fax is short for Facsimile, and perhaps they meant the quality to be only as good as you'd get on a fax... eh? If that's the case, then these are much better than what you'd get from the fax machine where I work.

Jared said...

Lovely snark there, Marcus, but they never said "facsimile," a loosely used term at best. They said "exact replica."

saintfighteraqua said...

What makes me the most annoyed is that they aren't improving, but getting worse!

Oh poor EC of Oz and PW Girl! I pity what they have in store for you!

Anonymous said...

I honestly think you guys are being a bit harsh. Yeah they deserve it for saying they are "exact replicas" but you know something, I have a subscription to these and I have been absolutely 100% happy with them. $56 a month isn't much and it isn't gonna break me and for what these books are, it is worth every penny. I get people commenting on them all the time. Besides this, Robert Baum has given his blessing on these and if they are good enough for the Baum family, they are most certainly good enough for me. So lets all not try to be nit-picky super collectors and just enjoy them for what they are. Lets face it, they don't make books like this anymore (with debossed covers and what not) and my children absolutely adore them. If you want first edition, buy first edition.

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

Complaining about missing pages, crooked cover labels, gray ink, and badly out of register color-plates is NOT knit-picking. Especially when BE has gone so far out on a limb making claims of "exact" reproduction. When the Del Rey mass-market paperbacks from the early 80s have better reproduction in some cases you know you're dealing with garbage.


And BTW, from my conversations with Bob Baum he hardly seems to disagree with my assessment.

But if you want to spend $700 for badly printed books with missing pages, gray ink, and some illustrations recolored in Photoshop - go ahead! But that doesn't make them not a travesty.

Anonymous said...

Then if you know "Bob" Baum so well then you should tell him not to put his name on a product that he doesn't necessarily agree with. Bad business, you know. Besides this, you said yourself that the "Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz" is, and I quote: "this is almost certainly the most handsome edition of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz currently in print". Stands to reason that it is more than likely the same for the rest of the books in the series. Seems to me like you need to make up your mind. You're up, you're down, you're up, you're down.... And honestly comparing THREE different scans IS nitpicking. If you can make out the image, then who really cares? And I can totally overlook the fact that an ownership page is left out. Who really uses those anyway? Honestly, Hungry Tiger is the real travesty here. When someone tries to pay homage to the Oz books instead of that nerve shaking musical that was pounded into our brains while growing up,you should applaud them and give them CONSTRUCTIVE criticism...not completely and totally bash them for it. Let's face it, the books don't get the attention they deserve these days....

Hungry Tiger Talk said...

You seem to have little understanding of critical analysis.

Since you state you aren't interested in quality of reproduction or bothered by missing pages I can see why you aren't bothered by BE's misleading claims and shoddy production values. But why bother buying them then? The Books of Wonder editions are more beautiful, more accurate, and half the price! Why not support an important Oz book publisher rather than a Collector's Plate company?

I don't understand why you have so much energy about these books. Most serious book collectors I know have been very disappointed - including some of the people involved. If you like them, fine! If you think they were worth $750, Cool Beans. But just because you paid a lot of money for some cheap plastic flowers doesn't mean the rest of us need to pretend they smell like roses.

ericshanower said...

Anonymous, it's hard to tell whether you're joking or not. You don't care about a missing page in a book that the publishers claim is perfect down to the last detail? Really? Statements like that make everything you write extremely difficult to take seriously. Either you're joking or your standards are so low that I don't see why you even bothered to enter this discussion.

Well-printed, finely-crafted books are important to some people. To you, it seems, they're not important. That's okay. But it's not okay to tell those who such things matter to that they don't matter.