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.
.Z501 - Swords of Mars First edition, ERB Inc. 1936. Blue cloth.
Z502/3 - Swords of Mars 1st reprint Grosset & Dunlap, 1937.
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
Z504[a] - Swords of Mars ERB Inc., red cover, reprint of 1940.
ASIDE: 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:
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, I 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 of Mars variant #2 ERB Inc. reprints 1940.
Z504[c] - Variant #3 ERB Inc., red cover, reprint of 1940.
Z505 - Swords of Mars 1948, gray cover, reprint
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 address.
Swords of Mars - Switched Jackets and Bad Facsimiles - an essay by Charlie
Z501 - First edition, ERB Inc. 1936. Blue cloth. 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 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 place
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 an original jacket using
this design, please let me know and I’ll post the correction in the next issue of ERB-
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.
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.
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
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
These G&D editions use the same dust jacket and are bound in red cloth with black
lettering on the cover and spine. The back flap ad in the first edition is replace by a list of
Burroughs books printed by G&D.
There two G&D reprints:
The first (!938) has five interior illustrations.
The second has only two monochrome interior illustrations.