Home & Garden

What’s the value of an L. Frank Baum book that preceded ‘Wizard of Oz’?

Only some books by L. Frank Baum are valuable.
Only some books by L. Frank Baum are valuable. TNS

Q: Can you tell me anything about the item shown in the enclosed photograph? The photograph is of a hardcover book titled The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People. It was written by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by Evelyn Copelman and published by Ameron House as a limited edition of 80 in 1947. Thank you for any information you can provide as to rarity and value.

G. G., Bedford, N.H.

A: Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) will always be remembered for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its 13 sequels. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz came out in 1900, but it was preceded by The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People.

The Surprising Adventures was originally published in 1899 as A New Wonderland, Being the First Account Ever Printed of the Beautiful Valley, and the Wonderful Adventures of Its Inhabitants. It was reissued in 1903 with the title found on the tome in today’s question.

Why the difference in titles? As best we can figure, it was believed that A New Wonderland was derived from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and therefore, the title of Baum’s work needed to be changed to The Surprising Adventures.

In chapter one, we learn that Mo is a beautiful valley whose inhabitants are universally happy because no one has to work and everything that is needed — including things such as clothes — grows on trees. In chapter two, the Monarch of Mo goes off to fight the Purple Dragon only to get his own head bitten off.

The king does not seem to mind this all that much, but the queen is perturbed because she cannot kiss the headless king. Eventually, a woodcutter makes the monarch a wooden head, but that does not do. The dragon obliges by biting off the woodcutter’s head and replacing it with the monarch’s. Around the story goes until the monarch and the woodcutter both get their original heads back and the woodcutter gets to marry a royal princess.

The first edition of The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo came out in 1903, published by The Bobbs-Merrill Company. Examples of this edition sell in the $150 to $250 range, with a few going as high as $450. We found references to a 1947 edition, but believe that this is probably not a first edition as claimed by some.

We believe the book in today’s question was not printed in 1947, but in 1985. This is the year, according to our research, that Amereon House of Mattituck, New York, issued its limited edition of The Surprising Adventures. The covers on G. G.’s example match the 1985 edition exactly. Retail on this is in the $100 to $150 range.

Write to Joe Rosson, P.O. Box 27419, Knoxville, TN 37927, or email treasures@knology.net. If you’d like your question to be considered for the column, please include a high-resolution photo of the subject, which must be in focus.

  Comments