The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz by Paul R. Bienvenue

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The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz

The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz by Paul R. Bienvenue and Robert E. Schmidt.
March Hare Books, 2009, 1st printing; foreword by Robert Baum;  a thick hardback, 8.9" square; 408 pp, including numerous appendices.

We have a limited use for Oz series reference, so I get by with an old edition of  Bibliographia Oziana: A concise Bibliographical Checklist of the Oz Books by L. Frank Baum and His Successors by Peter E. Hanff and Douglas G. Greene. The latest edition, I believe, is from 2002. However, if I were a collector of OZ books, even on a limited scale, I would not hesitate to purchase this book. Not for one minute! This book was the receipient of the 2009 GOLD MEDAL WINNER FOR BEST REFERENCE BOOK by the Independent Publisher Book Awards (the 13th Annual 'IPPYs') and all Amazon reviewers have awarded it five stars. I am quoting the Amazon reviews below in full, which I hope is acceptable. I think I've just talked myself into purchasing it to read for pleasure anyway!


I recently had the pleasure to examine a new collector's guide that, I must say, surely sets a standard for this kind of reference - Paul R. Bienvenue and Robert E. Schmidt's The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz.
Those of you who have had some experience with early Oz books already know that, thanks to their publishing history, the complexities are considerable. Such complexities can and often are maddening to booksellers, but often this is precisely what appeals to collectors. It broadens and extends the hunt - and the hunt, after all, is what it's all about.
Speaking of complexities, this brings me back to Bienvenue and Schmidt. In their Guide, they clarify and simplify the identification process to an extent I've never encountered in a bookselling reference. The approach includes using a format called top-down classification. After giving a detailed description of the book in question, the components are listed followed by their variants in the following order (which more or less replicates the order in which you would encounter them, the exception being the dust jacket, which is placed in the final position because one is rarely encountered): cover, endpapers, text, plates and dust jacket.
With book in hand, you work your way down. If the cover matches what you have, you move to the endpapers. If the endpapers don't match, you skip the remaining components and move to a description of the next printing, start with the cover again, and so on, until you reach your destination, where everything matches. Along the way, both essential (to identification) and non-essential information appears with the essential in bold typeface. This accelerates the process by allowing you to immediately skip over material that isn't necessary to confirm a printing state. Also, if there are issue points that are difficult to explain, illustrations are provided to save the day: The illustrations hardly stop there. Color photographs, harvested from important collections, are included for every major variant cover and many of the rare original dust jackets. What's more, all of Baum's work and the Oz books of his five "official" successors are featured, including Baum's non-Oz and pseudonymous books - the first time this has been accomplished in a single volume. Another first: When applicable, there are descriptions of later printings that possess features of interest to collectors.

In addition to identification tools there is much supplementary gold here - essays introducing each book, and even a detailed discussion of editions, printings, states and issues. No Oz collector can afford not to understand these terms cold. Finally, I can't close this review without mentioning that this book is beautifully produced. For the reasons cited above and more, I see no reason why this guide shouldn't become the standard reference for L. Frank Baum. Those of you who have been previously consulting Bibliographia Oziana for your needs and are perhaps concerned that this guide more or less duplicates its contents need not be concerned at all. This is a significant addition to Oz scholarship. ----Craig Stark, editor,, #134, 18 May 2009


Paul Bienvenue, with the assistance of Bob Schmidt, has produced a remarkable reference book that will serve collectors, booksellers, and libraries extremely well. His insightful essays on the works of L. Frank Baum and the later authors who added to America s very own fantasy series, the marvelous Oz books, expand our appreciation of Baum and his successors. In addition, The Book Collector s Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz will introduce countless readers to Baum s other work. Baum, who was a surprisingly prolific writer during a brief span of just over twenty years, left a literary legacy that has been far less well known than his Oz books. Those who encounter the Guide will find that this beautifully illustrated book presents them with an enticing sense of Baum s truly impressive achievements. The descriptive details in the Guide will help all from the most casual to the most advanced collectors tell at a glance what variant of book has been encountered. Because it provides just what a collector really needs to know about the Baum and Oz books, the Guide is accessible in a way that more formal bibliography often is not. But more than that, the book is simply a visual and descriptive feast that will reward browsing, helping to call to the mind of the reader what a rich and colorful body of books was created by Baum and the authors who carried on the Oz series after his death.
----Peter E. Hanff, Co-author of Bibliographia Oziana and Bibiography Editor for The Baum Bugle


Quite simply, The Book Collector s Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz is the most comprehensive and accurate book on these subjects ever published. Paul Bienvenue knows Baum and Oz books as almost no one else does. Written with encyclopedic knowledge and wry humor, this is the guide that collectors and dealers have needed for a long time. His system is clear and easy to use; a novice or experienced collector can quickly identify different editions and printings. But the usefulness of this book goes much further. With informative detail and biographic information, Bienvenue provides backgrounds and publishing histories to these books as well as illustrations relating to Baum and of all the rare and important editions. Beautifully designed and laid out, The Book Collector s Guide is a work of art itself -- a collectable item!
----Michael O. Riley, author of Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum


2009 GOLD MEDAL WINNER FOR BEST REFERENCE BOOK by the Independent Publisher Book Awards (the 13th Annual 'IPPYs')
This definitive identification guide examines all of Baum s published book-length works (Oz, non-Oz, and pseudonymous) with unprecedented simplicity and clarity. The Oz books of his five official successors are included as well, plus other important related volumes, covering over 150 titles in toto!

Essays introduce each book, discussing its history and including such supporting information as excerpts from Baum's letters, contemporary critical reviews, and original advertising and related ephemera. Historical photographs, rare artifacts, and original artwork are reproduced to help place the books in the context of their times.

Starting with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), the Guide shows in simple steps how to prioritize the astounding number of editions, printings, states, and variants for each title, with special emphasis on ease of use. Complicated technical points are simplified with easy-to-understand diagrams.

The authors have been granted unlimited access to some of the finest private and institutional collections in the United States. As a result, full-color photographs are provided for the covers of every major variant, as well as many of the rare original dust jackets. Some of these books are known by only a very few surviving copies.

All major printings are characterized by changes in color plate locations, typography, advertisements, and other tell-tale points, not just first editions; many variants are described for the first time anywhere.

The Guide includes over 420 photographs, illustrations, and diagrams, including nearly 350 photographs in full color. Binding and manufacture are of the highest quality: art-book grade coated paper, linen-covered boards and round-backed spine stamped in gilt, reinforced sewing for extra strength, full-color French-fold dust jacket on laminated stock.

Far from a dry, academic list, The Book Collector's Guide to L. Frank Baum and Oz is an engaging, demystifying, and entertaining look at the legacy of America's premier children's author.