Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Upgrading the Dragon
The book was published by Whitman as one of their Big Little Books and it caused all kinds of trouble. Frank J. had some notion that he wanted to continue the Oz books after his father's death. But his mother, Maud, had already signed a contract with the Oz book publisher, Reilly and Lee, to have Ruth Plumly Thompson continue the Oz series. It all got very messy. Because of the various rights and contracts, Reilly and Lee forced Maud to sue her eldest son for copyright violation. Laughing Dragon was never reprinted (and probably withdrawn from sale) and it is thus a fairly scarce book, as it is collected by both Oz folk and Big Little Book collectors. One could blog about the sordid legal issues for days - but I wanted to talk about two copies I have owned.
I finally got a copy when I was about nineteen. Longtime Oz collector and film maker Rob Roy MacVeigh was upgrading his copy and he sold me his old copy for $25. It was in good condition except for the teensy blemish that it had no cover! Rob made me a color xerox copy of the cover and I made a new cover for the book. It turned out quite well. A few years later I got a very nice copy of the book (with a cover!), but still had a strong sentimental attachment to my first one with my homemade cover.
In 1988 Eric Shanower and I were "engaged," but not yet cohabiting. Since Eric had no copy of Laughing Dragon at all I gave him the copy I'd made the cover for as a Christmas present. So it was out of MY collection but INTO my boyfriend's collection (so it's still in the family).
I doubted I'd ever be upgrading again as I get very attached to all my books and I had a really beautiful copy of Laughing Dragon. Then about five years ago an Oz friend steered me toward a copy I desperately wanted. But there was a catch - it involved my trading away my really nice one as part of the deal. And the copy I was trading for was not in as good a condition as mine. And it had been scribbled in! So why make the trade? Because of who had scribbled in it.