Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meet the Wizard, Mark Shapiro

1899 First Edition, First State


Almost four years ago (January 2007), I spotted a story about a collector of all things Wizard of Oz that absolutely fascinated me.  I posted about Mark Shapiro and his Oz books back then in what was only the 14th posting I had yet made here on Book Chase (Lions and Tigers and Books, Oh My).  Now, almost 1400 posts and four years later, I have the opportunity to update my original thoughts.




I've exchanged a few emails with Mark in the last couple of weeks, emails in which Mark was kind enough to include pictures of a tiny portion of his collection.  Based on what I've seen and on what I have read about Mark's collection on the net, I have to believe that his personal collection of L. Frank Baum material has to rank as one of the finest of its type in the world.

Mark, 64 years of age, has been collecting L. Frank Baum books and related material for some 38 years now, but his collecting bug probably can be traced all the way back to the childhood days he spent with his mother touring museums and libraries.  As you can see from the pictures, Mark has combined the best of both those worlds by becoming a first rate collector of rare books and related material, and displaying his finds in a museum-like setting.  He is building his collection in the spirit of his mother, whom he lost in 1998 at age 83, and sees it as a way of continuing to honor her memory.

Mark now has over 450 first edition Baum books but he is particularly excited about his 1899 Wizard of Oz, "B" binding with "O" outside the "C" on the book's spine.  Mark has 15 first edition, first state copies of Wizard and 5 of them are of the rarer "B" binding (out of only 2000 printed).

Despite the already massive size of his collection, Mark continues to find new items through private purchases, eBay auctions, garage sales and swap meets. The man is forever on the chase.
Illustration by William Wallace Denslow

Best Book Case Ever

There is no way that I can do justice to Mark Shapiro's collection and enthusiasm for Baum books - and other neat stuff.  I will add, though, that I am particularly envious of his collection of Wurlitzer juke boxes from the 1930s and 1940s.  Mark Shapiro is the kind of collector I would be if not for a few limiting handicaps: lack of funds, lack of time, lack of space and, most important, a wife who would kill me.

(By the way, Mark, I suspect I did not accurately describe the B-binding, mentioned above, so let me know how to correct that.)  

Readers might also enjoy Mark's blog, WizardofBaum.  


Please click on the pictures for larger versions.




8 comments:

  1. I literally cried reading this piece and not for me but for my mother who I know loved it for we all are creations of those who gave us life.
    Thank you Sam for your dedication to the world of books and the world is a better place with you in it.

    The B binding was described correctly and there are other first state points in the book but the B (O inside the C on co on spine) makes it unique in this book and a treasure.

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  2. Thanks, Mark, for sharing your photos with us. Great stuff.

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  3. Has Mark gotten any offers on where to place his collection in the (hopefully distant) future? Is that Wizard of Oz museum in Kansas interested in this incredible treasure?

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  4. He hasn't mentioned anything like that, Susan, but I'm sure the future of his collection has crossed his mind. I did mention to him the tragedy of what happened to one of the best 1960s New York Yankee memorabilia collection I have ever seen...belonged to a friend of mine who died suddenly. (Her young nephews effectively destroyed a lifetime's collection worth at least a quarter of a million dollars.)

    I plan to post something more from Mark soon.

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  5. Dear ByBee,,thank you so much for you concern and the Smithsonian Library in Washington through curator Stephen Van Dyck has showed concern for the collection and I have been in contact with him over the years. A museum would be the perfect place of that magnitude to share this "treasure" as you kindly put it for future generations to love and cherish as I have done in collecting it close to forty years having never sold a book. I never had children thus fate has given me book children. I was going to send a set of first edition oz books (14) to the Wamego museum in Kansas for display but had a car accident and couldnt get around to it. I am sure I will.
    It is people like Sam and his love of books such as yourself that I am sure what I have collected over time will end up in the right place to serve future generations. Thank you again for posting your comment and my email is wizofbeach@yahoo if you wish to contact me that way for any reason.

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  8. Frank and Mark,

    I can't afford to get in the middle of an old feud, guys, because I don't want to be held liable for things either of you might post here about the other.

    Both you guys are welcome to comment on anything else, of course, and I'll be happy to post those thoughts. I hope you both understand my situation here. Thanks.

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