Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

Tarzan at the Earth's Core

November 28, 1930 — “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core” published by Metropolitan Books, New York. Print run of approximately 15–20,000 copies. Wraparound dust-jacket and frontispiece by J. Allen St. John.

Originally published in The Blue Book Magazine from September, 1929 through March, 1930, where the novel carried full color covers and 53 interior illustrations by Frank Hoban, the story takes Tarzan to the inner world of Pellucidar where he meets dinosaurs, giant pterodactyls, a cave bear, snake men, and any number of prehistoric dangers.

After signing the contract with Metropolitan Newspaper Service, in late 1928, for the production and distribution of the “Tarzan of the Apes” daily comic strip, Ed contacted Max Elser, Jr. to see if he would be interested in handling syndication of his novels as well. Metropolitan was well versed in newspaper syndication of fiction, having distributed such authors as Edgar Wallace, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Rafael Sabatini and Sax Rohmer. Ed was also wanting to change publishers since he had failed to negotiate a new contract with A.C. McClurg for a larger percentage of sales. The new contract with Metropolitan gave them the rights not only to syndicate 10 previous Tarzan novels but to “produce, publish and sell four novels or literary works, in which at least two shall be novels in which the principal character is Tarzan.” “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core” was the third of those books, the first and second being “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” (1929) and “Tanar of Pellucidar” (1930).

Burroughs had not been particularly happy with the figures on Paul Berdanier’s jacket for “Tanar” and had strongly suggested that Elser should engage J. Allen St. John for the next book. In a letter dated June 17, 1930, Ed says, concerning St. John, “There is a finish and dignity to his work that adds a great deal to the appearance of a volume and he has done so much of my work that i believe that he is better qualified than any other artist that you could find.” Elser replied that they would ask St. John to supply the art for TEC.

St. John agreed, in early August, to do the art but on August 27 Elser wrote Burroughs that, “St. John has proved slow in getting out his work on the frontispiece and jacket …” and that there would be no time to submit sketches or roughs for his approval. St. John was teaching at Chicago Art Institute at the time, as well as continuing to solicit illustration work. The stock market crash in October the previous year had put a dent in the book trade and he had done only three jackets for A.C. McClurg westerns in 1930. His usual charge for wraparound full color art was $175 and $75 for the frontispiece, done in black and white oils. Title lettering was extra at $50 when painted on the cover art and $25 if inked on a separate sheet to be added later in the stripping process. That would have been $275 for this job, but Metropolitan only paid him $250 which means that he threw in the separate lettering for free. A sacrifice considering that this jacket front contains more hand-lettered promotional copy than any other Burroughs book previous.