A. L. Burt Publishers
A. L. Burt
Albert L. Burt was born in the year 1883 in Belchertown, Massachusetts. His beginnings were as humble and basic as any of us
today. He was educated by his local public school system and went on to dabble in a number of entry-level jobs such as grocery
clerk and traveling salesman. It was during his stint as a traveling salesman that he first considered the publishing business. His
first venture into the publishing world was the sale of a small edition of the National Standard Dictionary. This dictionary was typically
sold as a companion book to product manuals and reference books. Burt's tactic for selling the National Standard was much like
Amazon.com's website feature "People Who Bought This Item Also Bought..." seen today.
By 1889, with the successful sales of the dictionaries, Burt moved his operations to Brooklyn, New York, and began selling literary
classics and fiction standards of the day nicely bound in cloth, mostly through his "Home Library Series". He officially began the A.L.
Burt Company in 1890, which was fully incorporated as a company in 1902. Around the same time, he married Sarah H.P. Burt and
looked forward to starting a family. Burt's business methods proved to be groundbreaking. While the company did occasionally offer
first editions of new works, it was in the reprint business that Burt had his most profound influence on the publishing business.
Through his company, he began to offer books of all sorts - from encyclopedias and reference materials to young adult fiction titles of
the day. These books were offered in beautifully bound cloth or hardback editions, semi-durable to everyday wear and tear, and
attractive enough to proudly display in a home or office library. Perhaps best of all, Burt's company offered these books at prices that
were affordable for the average consumer. Literacy was no longer a privilege only enjoyed by the upper classes!
In 1915, looking to expand the company, Burt began buying reprint rights from other publishing companies of the day, such as
Bobbs-Merrill or A. C. McClurg. This boosted their clientele and revenue enormously and their practice of buying reprint rights
continued up until 1928. In fact, the A.L. Burt Company became so prominent in the publishing world that their main competition
ended up being publishing power-house Grosset & Dunlap!
A.L. Burt began reprinting the first five Tarzan novels as they came out. They kept them in continuous printing until the contract was
passed to Grosset & Dunlap in 1928. Today, an A.L. Burt edition in VERY GOOD or better condition and with its original dust jacket
in at least GOOD condition is very valuable to collectors with the first, Tarzan of the Apes, being the most sought after. Without its
dust jacket, an A.L. Burt Tarzan of the Apes [in very good or better condition] is worth at most forty or so dollars. With its DJ, I rarely
see it sell for less that a hundred, usually more.
The success of Burt's company allowed him to indulge in outside interests such as trout fishing and serving as a Trustee for the
Plymouth Church in Brooklyn.
Albert Burt died on December 28th, 1913, leaving the company to his three sons (Harry P., Frederic A., and Edward F.) who had all
been working for their father for years. Harry retired from the company in 1933 and the company ended up being sold to Blue Ribbon
Books in 1937. Blue Ribbon books was later bought out by Doubleday, while Burt's Home Library Series was purchased by Random