Metropolitan dust jackets update

I’ve been diligently working on setting the type and finalizing the art on three of the Metropolitan jackets: “Tanar of Pellucidar,” “Tarzan at the Earth’s Core” and “A Fighting Man of Mars.” Most of the cleanup for the cover illustrations and titling has been done over the last year. Several reference copies were used to make up for the poor condition that these particular jackets seem to be in in some of the collections I’ve seen. For “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” I’ve got quite a bit more work to do so that won’t be ready for a couple of months. More on that below.

All three use wraparound illustrations and each one incorporates a mix of fonts on the flaps. The flaps are typical in that they promote the book the jacket is for on the front flap and the other Burroughs books from Metropolitan with review quotes on the back flap. As far as I can tell Metropolitan Books, New York, never published any other than the four Burroughs’ books. There was another Metropolitan Books in Portland Oregon, but they only published a few titles in 1934 and 1935. However, one of those had illustrations by Mahlon Blaine who ended up living in an apartment over Biblo and Tannen and doing illustrations for the Canaveral editions of ERB’s books in the 1960s. Small world, eh?

So here’s the typographic tally for the three of the four Metropolitan’s I’m finishing up:

•  TANAR (1929) uses Cloister Bold for the flap copy, with Cloister Bold Italic for the names of the newspapers in the review quotes on the back flap. Both flaps use Cooper Black in the titles mixed with Cloister italic for the prepositions “of” and “and.” “By Edgar Rice Burroughs” is set on  two lines on both flaps in Cloister Bold Italic and Cloister Bold. “Author of. . .” lines are set in either Lino De Vinnne or Old Style No. 21. These seem to be the only fonts which have the curved start of the stem on the lowercase p. Very noticeable in the review quotes is the use of what Mac McGrew calls “modern” quotes (I could also describe them as reversed close quotes or reversed apostrophes) where the left quote glyphs have stems hanging from the ball rather than coming up from the ball (reversed 9s instead of 6s). Cloister was designed with these in it’s metal form as available from Linotype, Monotype and ATF, but for some reason they’re not found in any of the digital versions. Not even the LTC version from P-22, usually so accurate in their designs. What a shame! I hope someone corrects this oversight some day soon. In the meantime I’ll just make my own adjustment.

•  TEC (1930) uses Bodoni for most of the text, with Poster Bodoni (or Ultra Bodoni) for the title promo on the front flap. The publisher’s name is set in Cooper Black on the bottom of the front flap. On the back flap there is a promotional paragraph about ERB, set in Bodoni italic, along with reviews for “Tanar of Pellucidar” and “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” set in Bodoni and Bodoni Italic. The titles of those books are set in Cooper Black as is the publisher’s name. Not a lot to remark about, typographically, on this jacket.

•  FMM (1931) uses an Old Style font for the text copy. All OS fonts are difficult to identify because of overall similarities and only slight variations. Combine that with the  variations from point size to point size of the metal types and you see the primary difficulty I’ve had with this project from the very beginning. However, one clue points to Linotype Old Style No. 1 as the likely font: the calligraphic g in the italic. This kind of g has a left-facing bowl and a tail that sweeps down to the left as we would expect in handwriting or lettering. Hence, “calligraphic.” Most of the OS faces have a “two-story” g in their italic fonts. There are a few other Old Style fonts that have this g but the final distinguishing mark is the lower case p which retains the starting of the bowl’s stroke on the left overlapping the stem. This is typical of the Caslons and different from some of the other Old Styles like De Vinne or Lino Number 21 which show the curved serif at the top of the stem itself. The titles of the books promoted on the front and back flaps are all in Cheltenham Bold, a display face often seen on the A.C. McClurg jackets as well. On the front flap “A Fighting Man of Mars” is set on three lines in all caps. On the back flap there are two promos: “TARZAN  at the Earth’s Core,” and “TANAR of Pellucidar,” with “Tarzan” and “Tanar” widely spaced in all caps to fill the column width. Under those title displays, the words “By Edgar Rice Burroughs,” in two lines, are set in what appears to be Caslon No. 3 Italic and Regular, respectively. At the bottom of each flap the publisher name and address, “Metropolitan Books, Inc., 150 Nassau Street, New York” is set on two lines in Caslon Bold Condensed, all caps, with the exception of the “nc” in “Inc.” which uses small caps.

Though “Tarzan and the Lost Empire” was the first book that Metropolitan published, in 1929, it is a different sort of animal than the other jackets in that it is all line art. A much more graphic treatment than the paintings we’re used to from J. Allen St. John at McClurg. Burroughs wanted Metropolitan to use St. John, but they had their own house artists and wanted to keep costs down. In doing a restoration of TLE I’m working on pulling out the line art and actually laying it over the color block so that it will have the cleanest possible look. I’ve had a chance to get acquainted with the art as it was printed by Grosset and Dunlap and, subsequently, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and getting a better idea of what might have happened with it in production. But that’s another story for a another time.