Swords of Mars - Switched Jackets and Bad Facsimiles - an essay by Charlie
|Swords of Mars - Switched Jackets and Bad Facsimiles - an essay by Charlie
Cover painting for ERB Inc. editions of Swords of Mars. J. Allen St. John's masterpiece of the illustrators art
|This beautiful example of the illustrator's art has been one of my favorites since I first saw it sometime around 1968. If you were to argue that this was J. Allen St.
John's finest work in a lifetime of great art, I'm not sure I could argue an opposing view. If you are a Burroughs collector or maker of facsimile dust jackets, then
researching exactly what is correct for each edition is problematic. There are six versions of dust jackets for four different editions of Swords of Mars. On the
internet, you'll find copies of Swords with what is called its original dust jacket, and you'll also find facsimiles for each edition and DJ variation. However, the
version sold with the book or as a facsimile isn't always sold for the correct edition. For example, a recent eBay sale featured the first edition book with a jacket
that contained the words "A John Carter of Mars Romance" as a first edition jacket, However, those particular words only appear on one of the reprint versions
(red covers) published by ERB Inc. This article is an attempt to correct this problem. Throughout this article Bob Zeuschner's great bibliography has been my
guide to each edition. His numbering system denotes each different dust jacket in this article. Detailed information about the Grosset & Dunlap edition jacket
came from Joe Lukes' definitive bibliography of Pre-war editions and from emails sent to me by various collectors, all members of the two primary online lists.
The printer produced two states of this jacket: one laminated, the other
unlaminated. Note to collectors, the laminated version has to be handled with
extreme care, because over time the lamination is coming loose from the paper.
The printers used a rather porous, oddly textured cloth for the blue boards that
cover this book. I’ve not seen any other books using this cloth; so, it may have been
a product that just didn’t catch on. At any rate, I mention it because the jacket’s front
flap contains cleaning instructions: “This book is bound in a washable fabric, and
should the cover become soiled, it can easily be cleaned with a damp cloth.” These
cleaning instructions are found on two of the 1940 ERB Inc. reprint editions even
when the boards were no longer covered by the odd cloth of the first editon,
indicating that the original jacket plates were used by ERB Inc., but slightly modified,
to create the red-cover reprints, which erroneously leave the cleaning instructions in
Z501 - First edition, ERB Inc. 1936. Blue cloth.
Z502/3 - 1st reprint Grosset & Dunlap, 1937.
I can find no evidence that such a jacket exists. The clip-lines on the front flap are
present on other G&D Burroughs reprints of this time period - 1935 to 1940.
However, all the Swords examples I have seen are like the version I list as Z502/3.
I believe the facsimile maker mistakenly used the format he saw on other G&D
jackets of this time, such as Pirates of Venus, to recreate the jacket. If anyone has
in the next issue of ERB-APA.
Facsimile Dust Jacket L.L.C. lists the following erroneous jacket for G&D
editions (Z502/3 above) on their web page:
|ERB Inc. red-cover reprints - There were three versions of the dust jacket for these reprints published in 1940. Zeuschner lists them all as part of entry Z504. I’ve
added a bracketed letter to further separate them.
|This jacket is laminated and is identical to the first edition jacket. The front flap
contains the cleaning instructions even though the boards use a completely
different cloth making the cleaning instructions worthless and perhaps even
destructive to the book.
Z504[a] - ERB Inc. reprint of 1940.
I exchanged emails about this particular jacket (Z504[a]) with a fellow collector who told me that he had purchased a 1940 reprint with this jacket and had removed
it and placed it on his first edition. Without seeing the book in person, if he had not told me, I don’t think I would have been able to tell that the switch had been
made since this jacket is identical to the first. Antiquarians and Collectors need to be aware of this problem. The easiest way to determine if a switch has been
made is to compare the condition of the book to the jacket. DJs help preserve a book’s beauty, and books that have their original jackets are more often in better
condition. If the book is in poor condition but has an original DJ, then a switch was probably made. This method may not always work, but when it’s obvious,
accept the obvious.
However, there are notable, not so obvious, instances where this method simply will not work. Librarians protect the jacket in a mylar cover as soon as a book
arrives. Therefore a library jacket is frequently better protected than the often-read book. Another exception is a dust jacket purchased directly from ERB Inc. in the
1950s and sixties. These were extras, run-off but never used. Jim Thompson reports in ERBZINE that at one point the corporation was selling the jackets at a
dollar-fifty each. He paid that amount for a DJ for The Deputy Sheriff of Comanche County from the corporation warehouse. All of us have seen these jackets for
sale on eBay, but at a considerably higher price. Personally, I think that it would be perfectly legitimate to mount this authentic jacket on a book. However, a seller
of such a combination jacket and book should disclose this information as part of the sale. All of us who are avid collectors know the switched-jacket problem
exists. The writer/collector/hobbyist known as Bridge mentioned the problem in response to me on ERB-COF-L. Both list servers and my in-box lit up with
responses and anecdotes about switched jackets when Bridge's message appeared:
Bridge: "We're always fairly safe with some of our jacketed purchases but, lacking full knowledge of all the various jacket backs and ways of matching them to
the correct books, we probably all have books on our shelves with the wrong jackets and we don't even know it. It's understandable. A book seller may have
a jacketed copy of something or other, and gets in a better, jacketless copy of the book, so he takes the jacket off the substandard book and puts it on the
better book, without regard to whether it really belongs there or not. The most blatant example I ever saw was an easy one to spot -- probably one of the
easiest. I went into the Tacoma Book Center several years ago, and they had a copy of the photoplay edition of Tarzan and the Golden Lion, but with the
St. John Madison Square wartime edition jacket, complete with blue star on the spine. Did the bookseller put that jacket on the book to up its value? Or did
someone bring it in and sell it to the bookseller that way? In another example, I once bought an ERB Inc. first edition and was delighted that it still had its jacket.
Well, a few years later I finally figured out, when I became more knowledgeable about what was on the backs of the ERB inc. jackets, that it was just a jacket for
one of the 1948 reprints that had been added to the book. Some bibliographers have done a good job chronicling some of the distinctions between jackets,
but their published findings are probably not in every collector's library and since there are many who collect ERB the problem will continue, and worsen."
Until that series of emails, this author really was naïve as to the seriousness of this problem in the antiquarian marketplace. Apparently, this can be a problem
with all collectible books. Caveat emptor, for sure.
Z504[b] - Swords variant #2 ERB Inc. reprints 1940.
The only difference between this jacket and Z504[a] is that the publishers
name is enclosed in a yellow box. The front flap still contains the cleaning
instructions even though the boards use a completely different cloth for
which the cleaning instructions would not apply and might even damage
the book if used.
Z504[c] - Variant #3 ERB Inc. reprint of 1940.
|Front cover contains the words “A John Carter of Mars Romance” and a circle
with “The 8th Mars Novel” in the lower right corner. The front flap does not
contain the cleaning instructions of other ERB Inc. editions. Details necessary
to recreate this jacket came from Zeuschner‘s bibliography and the historical
files on ebay.com. In the historical files at ebay.com, I found a first edition
being sold with this jacket on it. Obviously, it had been switched at an earlier
date. The seller may, or may not, have known that a switch had been made.
Z505 - Swords 1948 reprint
|The front flap does not contain the cleaning instructions of other ERB Inc. editions.
The back flap contains the list of Burroughs titles that were standard for all the
books reprinted in 1948. Details necessary to recreate this jacket came from
Zeuschner‘s bibliography, J. Huckenpöhler, and most constructively, Lee Barrie
who sent me a scan of an original DJ for this
I’ve tried to ascertain the location of the original painting, but have so far had no luck. Bob Zeuschner even contacted ERB Inc. for me, but they don’t know its location
either. I’ll continue to inquire as to the location of the original painting for SWORDS OF MARS. Another collector, an expert on ERB art may be able to help me with this
issue, but I’ve been unable to establish comms with him. As of now, my research has run into a stone-wall. If I learn any more about the illustration’s location, I’ll post
the new information in a future ERB-APA.
For their help in the preparation of this article, I can’t thank enough those who responded to my emails, who volunteered their time and information, and who so patiently
explained the just plain weirdness of the bibliographic hunt.. However, their expert advice can’t stop me from screwing up my interpretation of what they say. So any
errors in the above are mine ----- and believe me there will be errors pointed out to me before all this is over. I’ll post any corrections in future ERB-APAs and at this web