Since moving to Louisville, Kentucky I have always wanted to visit the Edgar Rice Burroughs collection at the Ekstrom LIbrary on the campus of the University of Louisville. As my daughter Allison is a student there, and as I had a week off, we went together a couple of weeks ago. The collection is maintained by George McWhorter, who is also currently the editor of the fan magazine “The Burroughs Bibliophiles” and Mr. McWhorter was kind enough to give us a personal tour of the collection. The collection is in the basement of the library, in its own room. A sort of antechamber contains a glass case in which there is a whole assortment of Burroughs material, a lot of it spinoffs from the Tarzan movies. The main room though is packed with first editions of all of Burroughs books, as well as all paperback editions, Sunday Tarzan comics, magazine publications, foreign editions — literally everthing imaginable related to ERB, even a statue of Dejah Thoris and a large jetan board, complete with ornate Barsoomian pieces (to the unitiated, jetan is the Martian form of chess, described in The Chessmen of Mars, with a complete set of rules). It was a thrill to see the first edition of Tarzan of the Apes in mint condition, as were all the materials in the collection.
ERB holds a special place in my heart. My father read to me the first two Tarzan books before I could read, using his wartime Grosset and Dunlap editions which I still own. Then one day when I was 11 or 12 he bought me an Ace book edition of The Moon Men. This was at a time when I was still engrossed in Tom Swift books and for a while I just kept the book without reading it. Eventually though I succumbed to the Frank Frazetta cover and launched into the book. From that moment on I was hooked on all things Burroughs. Fortunately for me it was a time when all of Burroughs books were being reprinted by ACE books and Ballantine books, the early 1960s. I remember going to the Universal Books Store on 5th Street in Philadelphia and seeing the racks of books with the wonderful covers. Â I bought The Gods of Mars (in those days I didn’t have a concept of reading a series of books in order) and was hooked on John Carter, Barsoom, thoats, swordplay, and fliers. I remember going downtown to Leary’s Bookstore, where they had an even bigger collection of Burroughs paperbacks, and the thrill of buying more of these great books. Pellucidar, Amtor (Venus), the jungles of Africa, even the non-fantastic books like The Mad King and The Mucker were wonderful. I think you had to be a teenage boy when you started reading these books to fully appreciate them (Arthur C. Clarke said something to this effect once). Thank you, ERB, for all the fun and adventure you brought me in my youth! The visit to the ERB Collection brought back all these memories and more. If you are an ERB fan and in Louisville, make sure you visit the ERB Collection — there is nothing like it anywhere in the world.