03 June 2008

Celebrating John Dough and the Cherub

This will be JOHN DOUGH WEEK at Oz and Ends, celebrating the arrival of the 102nd-anniversary edition of L. Frank Baum's John Dough and the Cherub from Hungry Tiger Press. Yes, it's fully baked at last!

L. Frank Baum started to write John Dough on spec for Edward Bok, editor of The Ladies' Home Journal, as I'll discuss later in the week. After Bok declined to publish the story, Baum rethought and finished it for the publishing firm of Reilly & Britton, founded to issue his Marvelous Land of Oz in 1904. As with Land, Reilly & Britton commissioned John R. Neill to illustrate the book. Baum, Neill, and the firm went on to collaborate on twelve more Oz novels and many other books.

The first printings of John Dough had three-color artwork: black, red, and either yellow, green, or blue, depending on the signature. Eventually Reilly & Britton (which became Reilly & Lee) stopped printing the colored inks, and sometime in the mid-1900s let the book go out of print.

John Dough was unavailable for decades. In 1966, March Laumer's Opium Press in Hong Kong issued a small edition with new illustrations in a modern cartoony style by Lau Shiu Fan. Then in the 1970s Dover released a paperback reprint of the first printing with an introduction by Martin Gardner; that's how I first read the book. That paperback went out of print years ago. Project Gutenberg makes the text of John Dough available for free, but Neill's delightful artwork has not been republished in years.

The new Hungry Tiger Press edition of John Dough and the Cherub offers these features:

  • It's a handsome hardcover, with a trim size closer to the original than the shrunken Dover paperback, giving a better sense of the package Baum and Neill created for their original readers.
  • Although this book doesn't reproduce Neill's illustrations in color, it offers them all in crisp black and white. This is the first edition since Reilly & Britton/Lee's to include Neill's endpaper art, which I'll discuss later in the week.
  • The edition also reproduces Neill's two drawings of John Dough and friends from The Road to Oz, Frank Kramer's rendering of the Fairy Beaver King in The Shaggy Man of Oz, a reprint of the 1906 contest form that invited readers to decide whether the character Chick the Cherub was male or female, and other ancillary material.
  • In preparing this edition, publisher David Maxine discovered a previously undocumented change from the first printing to the later ones. In a note at the front of the book, he makes a strong case that the later printings reflect Baum's original wording--that someone at Reilly & Britton had tried to clean up some of Chick's slang, spoiling a joke, and the author got the firm to change his text back. This edition offers the slangy version.
Finally, while this edition doesn't include the insights of Martin Gardner, you get to read me discoursing on the book's historical roots and narrative structure. I used some of that material in a 2006 article for The Baum Bugle, but other parts are available only in the introduction to this Hungry Tiger Press edition.


Anonymous said...

I think your foreword to the book is excellent, J.L.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Eric! I really appreciate that.

(There you have it, folks! A completely unbiased opinion from the book's volunteer proofreader!)

Jay said...

AUGH! I can't wait until my copy arrives!!! (I ordered it last July.)

Anonymous said...

Hooray for JOHN DOUGH week! One slight correction to today's posting... The original pictorial endpapers were retained (albeit in black and white) in at least some Reilly and Lee printings.

bon appetit -
David M.

J. L. Bell said...

I'm being lazy and using "Reilly & Britton" to mean both that firm and its successor "Reilly & Lee."