The Oz Toy Book

It’s no secret that since I was a boy I’ve had a passion for making things out of paint and card. I seem to have had a pair of scissors in my hand for as long as I can remember. Here on the Artlog I’ve posted about my love of the art of ‘Toy Theatre’, and I’ve written at length about my practice of making articulated maquettes out of painted card as a part of my discipline as a painter. There’s no doubt that the two are connected. ‘Cutting-out’ was one of the great pleasures of my childhood. All I can say is that had I ever laid eyes on the book I’m about to share with you here, I would have thought I’d died and gone to Cut-Out Paradise.


The Oz Toy Book; cut-outs for the kiddies, was published in 1915 by Reilly & Britton. The publisher used artwork drawn by regular Oz illustrator John R. Neil, though neglected to tell the author Frank L. Baum about the publication, perhaps because it was originally intended as a promotional ‘give-away’ to encourage sales of the books. Clearly it was produced with much care, and so whatever had originally been intended, it was eventually released as a pay-for-product.


When he found out, Baum was impressed neither by the the product… he never liked Neil’s illustrations… nor by the fact that the The Oz Toy Book had been published without his knowledge or permission.


The book consists of 16 full-color pages containing 54 cut-out paper characters from the first nine Oz books. The sheets were perforated and held in place between its covers with ribbons, so they could be removed for cutting-out with no tearing from the spine.


Baum persistently lobbied his publisher to release Neil, and made several suggestions for a replacement. However, due to his good relationship with the publisher, Neil remained, and Baum eventually desisted.

To date only four complete and intact copies of The Oz Toybook are known to have survived. In the image below, one of those copies has been dismantled and presented framed.


In 1994, eighty years after the publication of the original book, illustrator Eric Shanower produced his own companion piece, The Oz Toy Book Volume 2. In comparison to the sumptuous, full colour character sheets of the original, this ‘second’ volume, is essentially a ‘colouring-book’, with all the images reproduced in black and white.


All images of the 1914 book courtesy of the Mel Birnkrant Collection.

Read about the Monster Rupert Cut-Out Book HERE.

12 thoughts on “The Oz Toy Book

    • I’m afraid that’s because I didn’t know about it. But I’ve checked it out now and the only copies I’ve been able to find are those which have been sold at auction. I think this edition is now pretty much as rare as the original.

  1. wow….the characters are really cool! i love them–i’m with anita, i wonder what baum’s problem was? i’m glad they kept neil on!
    i especially love the round guy, but i really like all of them, what an excellent find, thank you!

    • Hello Zoe. I’ve answered Anita’s question, below. Hard to know precisely why Baum was out of sorts with Neil to the point where he repeatedly tried to have him replaced, but he was the author, and so his views have to be taken into consideration. Luckily for Neil, and for generations of children who have loved his illustrations, Baum didn’t have his way.

  2. I love them! One of my best childhood memories is the joy of cutting out the paper ‘dressing up’ dolls on the back of Bunty and Judy comics. I used to make my own cut-out dresses for them too, wildly coloured with wax crayons. And in those days little persons could use proper pointed, sharp scissors for their enterprises without elf n safety substituting them with the blunt, round-headed things of today….and we survived! Clive, I think we all bless your younger cutting-out days as the precursor to your fabulous work today…and your glorious use of scissors! Vivat cisoria!

    • Yes, I too was equipped with incredibly long and pointy scissors, as my mother was a hairdresser and so there were no shortages of potentially child-lethal tools lying around. I think had I been given blunt-ended ‘safety-scissors, I would have fallen at the first hurdle.

      Ahhh, those paper dolls with their changes of costume held in place by tabs. I have a vague recollection of drawing and cutting-out something like that myself as a child, perhaps prompted by what I’d seen on the backs of my sister’s Bunty comics. I wonder whether I made anything that would have alerted my parents to what lay ahead. A hunky Tarzan, perhaps, with an interchangeable wardrobe of loincloths!

    • Anita, apparently Baum felt that Neil wasn’t finding the humour in the books. I suppose any author might find it hard to come to terms with images that differ from what what has played out in the imagination during the process of writing, and Baum must be in the company of many authors who have been out of sympathy with the illustrators foisted upon them by publishers.

      If he knew of Baum’s disapproval of him, it can’t have been pleasant for Neil either, nor an encouragement to his continuing participation. To my eyes Neil’s work on the Oz books is never less than craftsmanlike and elegant. He was superb draftsman, and generations of readers loved the illustrations. If the point of reference for Oz these days is the Judy Garland him, then that’s just because of the power of the Hollywood dream factory. Whenever I’ve picked up any of the Oz books illustrated by Neil, I always marvel at the strangeness of the world he conjured, odder by far than anything in the film.

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