The wonderful Annotated editions of The Wizard of Oz and Classic Fairy Tales from W.W. Norton

Back in 2000, Norton, that wonderful publisher that has ruled the roost of critical editions for great works of literature for decades, released The Annotated Alice.  It was a large hardcover book, almost the size of a coffee-table book.  It had wonderful annotations throughout the text as well as wonderful illustrations throughout the entire text of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  It was not a brand new book, however.  It was a reprint of a book originally printed by Crown Publishers in 1960 (it has been printed both by Bramhall House and by Clarkson N. Potter – both of them were imprints of Crown, but I can’t tell what was published by which and when).  It was apparently the brainchild of Clarkson N. Potter, a publisher with some great ideas.  After Alice, he spent the next two decades culling some of the great works of literature and having them all printed in these large hardcover formats with illustrations and annotations throughout.

By the time he was done, he had published the following:

  • The Annotated Alice (1960)
  • The Annotated Mother Goose (1962)
  • The Annotated Ancient Mariner (1965)
  • The Annotated Casey at the Bat (1967)
  • The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (1967 – in two volumes)
  • The Annotated Walden (1970)
  • The Annotated Wizard of Oz (1973)
  • The Annotated Dracula (1975)
  • The Annotated Christmas Carol (1976)
  • The Annotated Frankenstein (1977)
  • The Annotated Shakespeare (1978 – in three volumes)
  • The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels (1980)
  • The Annotated Oscar Wilde (1982)
  • The Annotated Huckleberry Finn (1988)

all of my Annotated Editions, including the original Bramhall House and Potter versions

I have copies of Alice and Mother Goose, both under the Bramhall House imprint, both volumes of the Sherlock Holmes, as well as an inscribed first edition of Dracula (inscribed by the annotator, Leonard Wolf, and sadly, not to me), and a promotion copy of Frankenstein (complete with letter from the publisher) – the latter three are all under the Potter imprint.

Sadly, all of these went out of print by the late 80’s.  However, with the new edition printed by W.W. Norton of The Annotated Alice, the series was revived.  They followed that later the same year with a Centennial Edition of The Annotated Wizard of Oz, complete with a new preface by Martin Gardner, who had annotated Alice and had been asked in 1970 to annotate The Wizard of Oz, but had declined.  After that, Norton started putting out a new Annotated Edition every year or so, with the following having been released so far:

  • The Annotated Alice (2000)
  • The Annotated Wizard of Oz (2000)
  • The Annotated Huckleberry Finn (2001)
  • The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales (2002)  –  the first new book for the series
  • The Annotated Brothers Grimm (2004)
  • The Annotated Christmas Carol (2004)
  • The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (2005 – in two volumes)
  • The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin (2006)
  • The Annotated Hunting of the Snark (2006)
  • The Annotated Secret Garden (2007)
  • The Annotated Hans Christian Anderson (2007)
  • The New Annotated Dracula (2008)
  • The Annotated Wind in the Willows (2009)

So, they have done 13 titles, but they have only covered 6 of the original 14 printed by Crown.  I’m not certain if there are issues over the rights or what, but hopefully they will go on to re-print the others.  Certainly, as I will discuss more tomorrow, a new version of Gulliver’s Travels is badly needed (especially since I didn’t realize until doing this project that it existed – I might have to go track down the old one).  The Annotated Brothers Grimm has been on my want list for over half a decade now and at some point I will have the money to actually buy it.  Hopefully before they put out a lot more that I want.

As an interesting side note, back in the late 80’s, The Annotated Hobbit was published.  It later went out of print, but was re-printed and updated in 2002.  It was perfect timing, of course, because interest in Tolkien was peaking due to the films.  But, it’s interesting to note that the new version looks curiously like the Norton books, even though it’s printed by Houghton Mifflin.