|Dick Martin circa early 1960s|
Reilly & Lee was bought by the Henry Regnery Company in 1959, mainly to acquire the Oz books. The top-heavy series had begun falling out of print and Regnery put a lot of effort into revitalizing it. For their first Oz project they accepted a proposal from Dick Martin to repackage Baum's Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz comic page into a picture book, The Visitors from Oz (1960). In 1961 they put out picture book abridgements of the first four Baum Oz books, illustrated by Dick Martin; the first Baum biography, To Please a Child (which featured a Martin dust jacket); and in 1963, a new Oz book.
He designed new covers, often based on original color plates or endpapers which had not been in the books in decades. He searched through his collection and the Reilly & Lee files and found marvelous little bits to add to and enrich each volume. If you've never sat down to compare the white editions to the original editions, you may be in for a surprise exactly how much Dick Martin tweaked and augmented each of the titles.
To launch the revamped Oz series Reilly & Lee pulled out all the stops. They prepared bookmarks, a new issue of "The Ozmapolitan" (an imaginary Oz newspaper used periodically as a publicity gimmick), and a marvelous poster advertising the redesign of the series.
On a side note, this poster was one of the things I most wanted for my collection. I finally got one about five years ago. It is reproduced in black and white on the cover of the 1964 "Ozmapolitan." One thing the poster clearly indicates (based on the Ozzy names in the border) is that Reilly & Lee probably had plans to issue all forty books in the new format. In the end, perhaps because sales of Merry Go Round in Oz were disappointing, they decided to issue only the fourteen Baum books and allow the rest of the series to go out of print.
The new white editions began to be issued in 1964. The first batch included The Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, The Scarecrow of Oz, and The Lost Princess of Oz. The other six Baum titles would not be released until the following year.
We'll go into each title individually in the coming weeks, but before I close for today I thought I'd share another quirky bit of Dick Martin's sense of humor. In the early 1960s while Dick was designing the "white editions," several people were in heated research-mode trying to work out the complex bibliography of the Oz books. One topic receiving much debate concerned which ampersands dated from what years on what books. An ampersand, for those that don't know, is the character or sign standing for the word "and," as in Reilly & Lee. One of the fellows involved in the debate was James E. Haff, Baum researcher and cartographer of the Oz Club's maps. In a sly mood, and as a little joke to make Jim Haff pull his hair out, Dick Martin put a different ampersand on each title of the fourteen "white editions."
On that note, I will see you next Wednesday when we'll tackle the "white edition" of The Wizard of Oz.