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Books, Artwork, and More From the Creator of ‘Tarzan’ Are Heading to Auction

Tarzan is one of the more enduring characters in American literature, but the Ape Man wouldn’t exist unless Edgar Rice Burroughs had created him. Now fans of the author’s work have a rare chance to own some of his treasures.

Items from Burroughs’s personal collection are being sold by Heritage Auctions later this month, along with other pieces related to his various works. That includes everything from original artwork that would become the dust jackets for his books, first editions of his writing, and the library table seen in many images of the author.

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The stars of the show are two original oil paintings by Burroughs’s frequent collaborator James Allen St. John. With starting bids of $100,000 each, the two pieces are expected to fetch much more than that entry price. One became the dust jacket for 1936’s Tarzan’s Quest, while the other was used for Swords of Mars from the same year. Burroughs and St. John began working together back in 1915, though, and Burroughs only had high praise for the artist.

Burroughs's library table
Burroughs’s library table

“I think you visualize the characters and scenes precisely as I did. If I could do the sort of work you do I would not change a line in any of the drawings,” Burroughs wrote to St. John in 1920. “Each picture reflects the thought and interest and labor that were expended upon it, and so I wish not only to congratulate you but to thank you for helping to make a book which would sell on the strength of the illustrations alone, regardless of the text.”

Other notable lots include a first-edition copy of Tarzan of the Apes from 1914, which Burroughs inscribed: “To My son John Coleman Burroughs, Long may he wave, with all good good wishes from the head waver, Edgar Rice Burroughs, May [but March] 14, 1950.” More than 80 books with messages from Burroughs appear in the auction, with most of them originally intended for his family members.

As a testament to the enduring appeal of Tarzan, the neighborhood where Burroughs once had a ranch (Tarzana, California) even took its name from character. Burroughs was often photographed at his home in Tarzana, with a library table featuring prominently in many of those images. Now available via Heritage, the hardwood table features gothic arches, fairies, and gargoyles. It shows Burroughs’s use in the moisture rings and chips that adorn it. Burroughs’s fans, though, may consider those defects assets rather than distractions.

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