ERB: In Focus

ERB in Focus

Robert Zeuschner


Are you a Burroughs collector, or on the verge of becoming one? Maybe you live with a collector and wish to know the level of mania involved, or perhaps you are just curious about the mental processes of what makes a collector. Collecting, simply, is accumulating that which gives one enjoyment. Collecting ERB, on the other hand, is the former and a certain amount of determination, discipline, and financial ability. The various levels of participation in the collecting of the works by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and what CAN be collected, is the basis of this web site. Let's explore the various extremes which might define your Burroughs' collecting. Let me make a rough sketch of three main variants of Burroughs collectors.

Tarzan of the Apes, Ballantine

I view a Level One collector as someone who reads Burroughs for content and words and simply desires to read each story published, but even more, a Level One is someone who wants their own personal reading copy of every story on their bookshelf. A Level One collector is primarily interested in the rather easily obtainable paperback reprints from Ace, Ballantine, and Charter. These collectors are often satisified with photocopies of the various texts rather than professionally published editions but, most importantly, they want ALL the words written.

The tools that a Level One collector needs is a little bit of money and a good bibliography that lists each story and who published it. Unlike the the first generation of Burroughs collectors (those who started reading ERB in 1912 or 1914 and simply bought each book brand new as it was published, resulting in an amazing collection of first editions!, the Level One collector has a fairly easy row to hoe because the mass-market paperbacks were so prolific in publication.

Tarzan of the Apes

If you began collecting about twenty years after 1914 you could still buy new Burroughs books as they were published. You'd have bought the original 1930's ERB, Inc. first editions, and either new or used Grosset & Dunlap reprint publications, or perhaps the earlier A. L. Burt Tarzan titles. Major urban areas might easily have provided you with used editions obtained from family or single-proprietor book stores--at prices not that too divergent from the original "new" releases. Since we are speaking of collectors in the 1930s, you might have also decided to cut out and preserve the Tarzan stories being printed in the comics pages of the Sunday (and daily) newspaper. You might have even tried to pick up a poster from a locally playing Tarzan movie, maybe an early one with Elmo Lincoln in syndication release, or a later one featuring Johnny Weissmuller in first release. But today is not the 1930's and if you weren't collecting then, you'll fall into the following group: Collecting in the 1950s-1990s. The collecting game changes dramatically with each decade. I'll speak of the collectables by decades in future ERB: In Focus articles, but for the present, let us continue to explore my definitions of collector levels.

Tarzan of the Apes

Who qualifies as a Level Two collector? In my mind this would be someone who wants more than a mere paperback reading copy of each title. The Level Two collector also seeks out a hardback copy of each and every book. Level Two collectors today must search out hardback reprints, or, if you are particularly diligent and adventurous, search for occasional first editions. I'm inclined to consider someone searching for first editions exclusively as another level--perhaps a Level Three collector. For either of these levels a complete and in-depth bibliography of ERB's publishing history is indispensable (see ERB Publishing History for a fairly up to date on-line reference*) but more importantly, Level Three collectors need a rather significant income!

Tarzan of the Apes

Level Three? First Editions and First Editions with signatures. Beyond Level Three? There are many possible variations. Collectors who want a near-fine to fine first edition of each title and, additionally, collecting near-fine to fine reprints of the various re-print editions--at least one copy of each significant variant.

Reality Check:

There are 29 first editions published by A. C. McClurg. There are 23 first editions published by ERB, Inc. between 1931 and 1967. Add a few more firsts from Metropolitan, Volland, Canaveral, Whitman and Macaulay, you'd almost have a complete collection. The caveat is knowing WHAT to collect! For example, here's a response I recently posted at ERBList as regards inquiries of McClurg editions of "Jungle Tales of Tarzan." This listing also illustrates why Level Two and Level Three collectors need deep pockets!

The first of "Jungle Tales" is orange. There are five sepia coated page interior illustrations, but another dozen line drawings. The second McClurg printing is dark green, but it has "W.F. Hall" on the copyright page. The third McClurg printing is dark green, but it does NOT have the "W.F. Hall" on the copyright page. The fourth McClurg printing is dark green, but has only the single frontispiece illustration. All the other coated page interior illustrations were eliminated.

More variations of collecting in the next installment.

Bob Zeuschner

Sierra Madre, CA

Order Robert B. Zeuschner's ERB Bibliography with the Impossibly Long Name and mention Musing #2 and get an autographed copy (with condolences for your ERB addiction) direct from the author. Send email and "Musing #2" to Bob Zeuschner. Comes complete with a dust jacket by Tom Yeates! Available from the Author direct only. Tell 'em TANGOR SENT YA for a bonus line in the authograph...We'll leave it up to Bob what that line might say! :)