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Tarzan and the Lost Empire

by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Jacket and Frontispiece by Armstrong Sperry

Metropolitan, New York, 1929
Grosset & Dunlap, New York, 1929/1930

Excerpt from "To Bora Bora and Back Again: The Story of Armstrong W. Sperry" by Robert R. Barrett in The Burroughs Bulletin, Number 11 (New Series), July 1992, p. 6:

"[In 1929], Sperry illustrated Tarzan and the Lost Empire for Metropolitan Books. There is a possibility that Sperry was working for the United Features Syndicate along with Rex Maxon, Paul Bernanier, and Hugh Hutton, since they were working in Metropolitan's art department at the same time (Maxon excepted). It can be assumed that the need to keep production costs down explains why Sperry was commissioned only to do the dust wrapper and a frontispiece for Tarzan and the Lost Empire. The dust wrapper features Tarzan clasping a sword and standing in the center of the arena at Castra Sanguinarius. It is done in Sperry's woodcut style with color being added at the printer's. The back of the dust wrapper features a small portrait of ERB and various African animals, all done in the woodcut manner. This portrait of Burroughs and the animals was used on the back of the Grosset & Dunlap reprint dust wrappers after 1940, and on the back of most of the Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. 1948 reprints. The frontispiece (pictured [above]), though black and white, is powerful and ably displays Sperry's command of design and anatomy. This was the first book to depict Tarzan wearing an over-the-shoulder leopard skin, no doubt inspired by Frank Hoban's illustrations for Blue Book magazine. It was also the first book, after Tarzan of the Apes, to be illustrated by an artist other than J. Allen St. John."

Excerpt of correspondence between Edgar Rice Burroughs and his editor concerning the artwork for this edition, as quoted in "Edgar Rice Burroughs and Metropolitan Newspaper Service: Being an Account of Tarzan and the Lost Empire" by Robert R. Barrett in The Burroughs Bulletin, Number 42 (New Series), Spring 2000, pp.6-10:

On June 25, 1929 [Maximillian] Elser [Jr., of the Metropolitan Newspaper Service] wrote to Ed[gar Rice Burroughs] that "Mr. Alexander Grosset approved on Friday last the sketch which had already been prepared for us for the jacket of Tarzan and the Lost Empire. We already had laid out the frontispiece different from the jacket. You may remember that it was originally discussed between you and us if the jacket should also be used for a frontispiece. As planned, the frontispiece will show Tarzan rescuing the Roman maiden from her aggressor." Elser went on to ask: "Will you give us your approval of this frontispiece subject to Mr. Alexander Grosset's okay, without its being referred direct to you, just as you spontaneously wrote you wished done on the jacket?"

On July 2, 1929 Elser reported that they were negotiatingwith the American News Company for distribution of the new Burroughs titles. On July 3, Ed replied to Elser's question question about approving the sketches for Tarzan and the Lost Empire, saying "You need not send any of the artist's sketches to me for this book, for you haven't enough time now, really, in which to get the dummy into your salesman's hands for the Fall business." Of course Ed and Elser were talking about the dust jacket and frontispiece by Armstrong W. Sperry (see his biographical sketch in BB #11, July, 1992).

* * *

On July 8, 1929 Elser notified Ed that "if we are not delayed too much by the ink mixing we may be able to have the jackets for Tarzan and the Lost Empire on the press this week. You know, of course, that the right quality and density of black ink for the text is of importance in the appearance and legibility of the book; also that the colors on the jacket must be watched with extreme care.

Above all things, we are going to avoid muddy colors. We are working for a jacket which will not only stand out but make people want to buy the book at first glance. Our prerequeisite thin dummies will be made up shortly after we get the jackets.

* * *

On September 9, 1929 Ed writes to Elser: "Copy of Tarzan and the Lost Empire came today. It is quite attractive and I am sure that the sales will come up to our expectations."

Publishing History of Tarzan and the Lost Empire





* Metropolitan


DJ, orange, 313 pages, Frontispiece
  Blue Book


Oct 1928 to Feb 1929
* G&D


DJ, red, 313 pages, Frontispiece
* G&D


DJ, mixed edition with Metopolitan title page, red, 313 pages, Frontispiece


DJ, red, 313 pages
  ERB Inc.


DJ, tan, 313 pages, Frontispiece


PB (mapback) (536), 192 pages


PB (F-169), 192 pages


PB (F-777), 159 pages

* Dust Jacket and Frontispiece by Armstrong Sperry

Source of List: A Publishing History of Edgar Rice Burroughs, by Bruce Bozarth

New! You can send the dustjacket or frontis as free virtual postcards (#12 & 21)!

This page last updated Sunday, 05/02/21, by Margo Burns, margo@ogram.org
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