The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Since the Wonderful Wizard of Oz book is the most cherished book by Oz collectors, I decided to publish the detailed analysis of the first edition copies of this title.

As many of you already know, the first edition copy of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 by Geo M. Hill Company. The original copies contained 24 color plates in addition to in-text illustration. There are two different printings (states) of text and plates and three different bindings ("A", "B" and "C"). "A" binding is identical to "B" binding with the exception that the name of the publisher at the bottom of the spine is printed in green color instead of a red color. Since there is no "A" binding available for sale in this analysis, I will address only "B" and "C" bindings.

Due to the fact that many people do not know the intricacies of the “book construction,” a short introduction may be beneficial. Here is the “nuts and bolts” information that pertains to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz book.

The book consists of four parts:

1. Boards with external cloth

2. Paste down (left and right end papers)

       3. Text block                                             4. Color plates


In the first press run the board consisted of the following elements: (1) binding "B", (2) text with misspelling, (3) rear pastedown text in the box; and (4) 24 plates in which 3 of them (title page and plates opposite of pages 34 and 92) are unique and different from the later printed plates.

Please watch a short video for differences between first and second state copies and understand four elements mentioned above.

Based on my evaluation of over 50 copies of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz I had concluded that the first part that was replaced over the years were rear endpapers. I deduced that mainly because there are very few copies of "B" binding with the first state text and all first state plates, but second state rear end paper.

Since the second state (corrected text) can be found in "B" bindings, I assume that the text is an element that was replaced next. Although there are copies of "C" binding with first state text still in existence, there are very few of them. If I had to guess, for every 10 copies of "B" binding with second state text, there is only one copy of "C" binding with the first state text. And finally, the last book part that was replaced is the three color plates. Please note that since the publisher had more color plates than of any other parts of the book, the first state text copies always had first state plates. As a result, quite frequently the first state plates can be found in "C" binding with second state text, but not other way around.

When dealing with a children's book that is over one hundred years old, it is easy to understand why the condition of the book may be far from perfect.

Many people, in attempt to preserve the book, take this famous title to a bookbinder. When a book falls in the hand of bookbinder he or she usually make an attempt to perform a variety of repairs in order to bring the book to a readable condition. Usually, book binders re-saw pages, sometimes they trim pages to have an even edges, and almost always, they remove the existing spine, place a new spine that connects two boards and re-glue the original spine on the top of the new (recasing). The text block is then attached to the board and existing end papers are lifted in order to support linen holding text to the board. Many bookbinders do an excellent job essentially transforming antique books. However, many collectors, including the majority of Oz collectors, prefer original, not re-built, books. Why? Because from both monetary and sentimental perspectives, the collectors would like to see the book as close to the original as possible. I am always mindful of these considerations when I consider repairs of Oz book that come into my possession.

A few days ago I have had a chance to meet and discuss issues associated with the repairs of antique books with Thomas Albro. Mr. Albro is a retired head of conservation unit at the Library of Congress and helped restore many rare books. I set up a working session with him and asked for his opinion about a number of copies of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz that I brought to him for his review and opinion.

Mr. Albro’s initial approach was one of a professional bookbinder – that the job of the bookbinder is to restore a book so that it could be opened naturally and pages be flipped and turned easily. However, when I explained to him the sentiments that I hear from Oz collectors over and over again regarding the book’s original state, Mr. Albro confirmed that in view of those preferences, the only repairs that will not disturb the original integrity of the book should be of a minor nature. In particular, he recommended the following:

1. Re- inserting page or plate if it is out of the book
2. Repairing tears
3. Cleaning cover using dry method (only part of the original cloth, and not the green or red stamping or lettering)
4. Enhancing board coloring, if needed
5. Repairing spine fraying to avoid further damage and to give the book necessary support.

He also suggested storing a book in the box in order to avoid further pressure to the book spine based on the original construction.

As a service to my clients, I looked through the (15,000 antique books dealers) to ascertain what copies of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz are available for sale. I also analyzed the condition of each of the copies and the type of re-building work that was or was most likely performed with regard to those copies. Out of 110 million books listed at Abebooks, I was able to locate 14 copies of the first edition Wonderful Wizard of Oz that available for sale. Below are the relevant excerpts from sellers descriptions sorted by prices in the ascending order with my comments that follow each listing.

In my comments I refer to the following steps that usually are performed by bookbinders:

1. Recasing2. Reinserting color plates ( sometimes in the wrong position, since they have no reference material)3. Re-sawing the text block4. Reinforcing the cloth of the book cover

1. Seller: Bernard J Shapiro Rare Books, ABA ILAB - Price: $6,100

" Geo. M. Hill Co. Chicago, 1899. First edition, later issue. 20 plates including title, original light green cloth pictorially stamped and lettered in red and a darker green (variant C, with the publisher's imprint at foot of spine stamped in red and with the "C" of Co. encircling the "o"), two-colour pictorial pastedown endpapers, the rear of which with the unboxed 13-line colophon, lacking 4 plates and a leaf of text, 2 leaves bound out of order, occasional finger-soiling internally, covers with reasonably fresh colours, spine lightly rubbed and fraying at head and tail, housed in a clamshell green morocco-backed clamshell box gilt."

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with 20 plates with two out of order. It is an incomplete book since it is also missing leaves (pages). Work performed: Step 2, 3 and most likely step 1

2. Seller: King Bee Books - Price: $7,000

"George M. Hill, Chicago, 1900. Full Cloth. Book Condition: Very Good. W.W. Denslow (illustrator). First Edition. Large 8vo. This is the first edition of: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by: L. Frank Baum. Illustrations by: W.W. Denslow. Published by: George M. Hill,Chicago, 1900. Copyright 1899. Large cloth, stamped in red and green.261 pages. I'm not sure of the exact state but I am providing adequate photographs and I will list some of the points: Page 14 reads ' Low Wail'. Page 81,fourth line from the bottom spells 'pieces' correctly. Page 227 first line spelled: 'while the woodman'. The colophon at the rear of the book is 13 lines. All 24-color plates by W.W.Denslow are present. The book has undergone a full restoration by: Scott K. Kellar Bookbinding and Restoration, Chicago, Illinois. The book has been expertly re sewn, reinforced and restored using archival materials. A couple of minuscule losses on the spine have been carefully filled in to provide a perfect match to the adjacent material."

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with all 24 plates. Book has undergone complete restoration. Work performed: Steps 1,2, 3 and 4

3. Seller: Peter Harrington. Price: $8,219

"Chicago and New York, Geo. M. Hill, 1900, 1900. Octavo. Finely bound by The Chelsea Bindery in full green morocco, title decoration and raised bands to spine gilt, rules to boards gilt, pictorial decoration to front board gilt, inner dentelles gilt, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, other edges untrimmed. Original cloth spine and front board bound in at the back. Illustrated throughout by W. W. Denslow. Some occasional light foxing, otherwise a fine copy. First edition, second issue with the title page correctly dated 1900."

My comments: This is a second state copy in new binding. Please note that the number of plates is not mentioned in the listing

4. Seller:B. Ashworth's, Inc. Price: $9,500

"George M. Hill Co., Chicago, 1900. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. No Jacket. 1st Edition. Description: c.1899, 1900. 1st Edition, later state with following textual points: the colophon at end of book is set in thirteen unenclosed. Not perfect type p.100 last line & p.186 last line. Copyright notice on verso of title page. In binding "B" with Geo. M. Hill stamped in red on spine. 24 color plates by W.W. Denslow. Color plate at p.34 2nd state without the two blots on moon, color plate at p.92 2nd state with no red shading on horizon. Book has had professional restoration including recased & some repair to spine ends & tips, minor sunning to boards and spine. Occasional smudges inside but nothing serious. Overall a nice, very good copy eye. Very rare."

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding "B" with all 24 plates. Book has undergone complete restoration. Work performed: Steps 1,2, 3, and 4

5. Seller: Kurt Gippert Bookseller. Price:$9,500

“George M. Hill Company, Chicago, IL, 1900. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very good condition. First Edition. Octavo (8vo). Complete 1st edition, State C of binding, mixed first and second state of text, with second state of plates, professionally restored (including resewing) by Chicago conservator Scott Kellar. Complete with 24 color plates including the title page....”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding "C" with all 24 plates. Book has undergone complete restoration. Since there is mixed text and book went through restoration, I assume that this book was put together from two separate books in order to make one complete copy. Out of 50+ copies that I handled I have never seen mixed text in original copies. Work performed: Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4

6. Seller:Abyssbooks. Price:$10,000

“Geo. M. Hill Co., Chicago, Il., 1899. Hard Cover. Book Condition: Good. Denslow, W. W. (illustrator). First Edition. 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. First edition, (1899 is stated date) later issue, pale green binding stamped and lettered in red and a darker green (variant C, with the publisher's imprint in red on heel of spine - Geo. M. Hill Co, with C encircling the "o"), includes 22 fully intact color plates of the original 24, missing title page and frontispiece illustration and the greater portion (all but lower corner with monkey and lower edge) of plate between pages 170-171- this plate is not included with the 22. Cover has frays on the corner tips, edges of spine, short mid section surface split on the back side of spine hinge, same on front with nick, some soiling on cover, interior is clean and firm, plate between 14/15 is detached from midsection down, 1/2" closed tear upper edge of page 19, corner tip of plate between pages 20/21 is chipped in the lower foreside margin -illustration fully intact.”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with 22 plates with two out of order. Although this is an incomplete book it is most likely in original condition based on many faults that were not corrected.

7. Seller: Aquila Books - Price:10,450

“Geo. M. Hill Co., Chicago / New York. 1900, 1st edition. (Hardcover) Very good. 259, [2]. Octavo with copyright notice dated 1899, front and rear pastedown in the first state, as is the plate facing p.34 with the moon showing two dark-blue blots, otherwise the spine is stamped as per state C, and the plate at p.92 is in the second state. All textual errors have been corrected and the damaged type at pages 111-13 is also present. (State 2). Professionally recased, with the original spine laid on....”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with 24 plates. One plate is from the 1st state. Work performed: Step 1

8. Seller Miramar Rare Books Company. Price: $10,642

“George Hill, Chicago, 1899. Cubiertas originales. Book Condition: Bueno. Dust Jacket Condition: Bueno. Primera edición. 22 Cm. First edition. SIZE 22cm. -Original decorated covers. -All 24 color plates present. -Original George Hill spine imprint in red. Soiled with some brown staining on rear cover.”


9. Seller: Aleph-Bet Books. Price: $17,600

“1900. BAUM,L.FRANK. THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Chic: George M. Hill 1900. Large 8vo, pale green cloth stamped in red and green, 261p., light spine soil, light edge rubbing, spine ends creased, professional mends to front hinge and small bit of cloth at base of spine (both nicely repaired), else a really clean, tight, VG+ copy. 1st ed., second state...”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with 24 plates. Based on description this book has had minor repairs as identified from the Thomas Albro’s list of minors repairs.

10. Seller: David Brass Books. Price: $35,000

“First edition, second state of the text and second state of the plates in C binding....”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with 24 plates. Out of 5 paragraphs in the description, strangely I did not find any information related to book condition. As a result I hesitate to comment on this book.

11. Seller: Aleph-Bet Books. Price: $35,200

“Hinges professionally strengthened, spine ends reinforced, some fading and a few faint soil areas on covers. Internally, small margin repair to 1 plate (p.80), otherwise clean tight and VG+. Color plate incorrect on page 34, with red in the horizon on page 92. Binding state "B"

My comments: This is a 1st state text in "B" binding with 24 plates. One important 1st state plate was replaced from the second state copy (based on my observation that 1st state plates were always used on 1st state text copies). I cannot comment on exactly the type of work that was performed, but this book has definitely undergone bookbinder’s work.

12. Seller: Aleph-Bet Books. Price: $35,750

“Fine and bright - clean and tight, housed in custom cloth box. 1st ed., second state. Binding state "c"...”

My comments: This is a second state copy in Binding C with plates. I assume all 24 color plates are in place, but it was not specifically mentioned in the description.

13. Seller: Aleph-Bet Books. Price: $35,750

“Slight wear to spine ends and some rubbing to hinge paper else FINE - clean and tight. Binding state "c". ALL POINTS OF FIRST STATE except for one. Color plates corrected on page 34 & 92 (second state).”

My comments: This is a first state text copy in Binding C with plates from 2nd state.

14. Seller:Port Hole Books. Price: $100,000

“Geo. M. Hill, 1899. Hardback. Book Condition: Very Good. True First . . . This is a True First Edition of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1899, 1900). All points for state B are present (state A was a ltd printing for the author's friends); all plates present. This book has had some restoration, highly professional work which has left the book in Very Good or better condition.”

My comments: This is 1st state text in "B" binding with 24 color plates. I assume all plates match 1st plates points. It is obvious that the book went through restoration, but the details of the work are not given.


As the readers can see for themselves, the majority of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz books that are available for sale have gone through some type of restorative work and fall in the wide price range from $6100 to $100,000. The price mark-up varies, of course, depending on a variety of factors, but it is not uncommon for dealers to have 300% and even 400% mark-up.

When I recently asked one of the book dealers the reason why he quadrupled the price of a common Oz title, his reply was quite simple: " I do not have to sell this book right away. One day someone will enter my shop and will buy this book at the full price. I might have to wait for ten years, but it will happen.”

I understand that many dealers have to sell the books at retail value in order to cover the cost of paying rent and operating expenses, paying employees, etc.; however, I believe that it is unethical to take advantage of uneducated consumer. When I price books in my inventories, I usually offer them at half of what other book sellers are asking for similar copies. Why you might ask? There are multiple reasons. First, I do not have to pay around 20% commissions and credit card fees as most sellers do that sell their books through Abebooks. Second, I do not have employees to compensate or rent to pay. This is my passion and my hobby, and what I get from selling Oz books enables me to purchase books for my own collection. I view my role in this adventure is not just the buyer and seller, but also an educator who commits time and resources to educate the public and future collectors.

In conclusion, since Wonderful Wizard of Oz title is the most known and perhaps most cherished book by Oz collectors, please feel free to browse my inventories of Oz books and compare them to every other copy that is available online. As always, should you have questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

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