Friday, October 12, 2007

Personal Library of Edgar Rice Burroughs

While best known for writing his wildly successful Tarzan and Barsoom series, Edgar Rice Burroughs was also a bibliophile and book collector, having owned a book shop in Idaho and worked as a door-to-door book salesman in Chicago.

According to, Burroughs’ personal library was compiled over the course of his life and at its height contained over 1,100 volumes. Today, the surviving editions, which have been preserved by Burroughs’ grandson, Danton Burroughs, and catalogued by ERBzine’s Bill Hillman, contain an interesting mix of fiction and nonfiction books, including: Glinda of Oz, by L. Frank Baum; The Crisis, by Winston Churchill; Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell; The Hand of Fu Manchu, by Sax Rohmer; and Amenities of Book Collecting and Kindred Affections, by A. Edward Newton.

In addition, the extant collection contains eleven books that Bill Hillman has identified as “Space Science & Science Fiction ~ Space ~ Mars ~ Fantasy." Several of these books are worth noting:

The most obvious is Fenton Ash’s A Trip to Mars (1909), an adventurous tale in which two British youths encounter the winged inhabitants of Mars.

The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phoenician, by Edwin Lester Arnold (1890), is intriguing as Arnold later wrote Lieutenant Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (1905), a classic of Martian adventure. Both books have spurred debate as to Arnold’s influence on Burroughs’ Barsoom series.

Camille Flammarion’s nonfiction Astronomy for Amateurs (1904) stands out as the French astronomer also penned Urania: a Romance (1891), a work of fiction that involves a visit to an advanced Mars.

Finally, Roy Rockwood is an easy name to recognize as "he" wrote Through Space to Mars, or the Longest Journey on Record (1910), an early science fiction novel for younger readers. Roy Rockwood was a publishing house pseudonym used by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which is perhaps best known for its Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins books.

Pictured above is an Edgar Rice Burroughs bookplate, created by his nephew, Studley Oldham Burroughs, probably in the 1920's. According to ERBzine, the bookplate "encompasses a Tarzan-like figure holding a luminous sphere, presumably the planet Mars. On one side is a kneeling ape, clutching Tarzan by the ankles. On the other side is a cluster of eight faces, presumably fictional characters, among them a monk, a knight, a soldier, a sultan, and an attractive blonde. Below them is a garland with crossed sword and pen. In the foreground, next to the author's name, is a crest quartered with 4 illustrations: a spurred boot, a cattle skull, a wagon wheel and an open book. The bookplate is signed in the engraving "S.B.", identifying the artist as the author's nephew, Studley Burroughs."

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