DescriptionEdgar Rice Burroughs. A Princess of Mars. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co., 1917. First edition of Burroughs's first Martian novel. Published October 10, 1917. Octavo (7.3125 x 4.875 inches; 185 x 124 mm.). , vii-xii, , 326, , [1, blank] pages. Sepia frontispiece and four black-and-white plates by Frank E. Schoonover (1877-1972). Printer's imprint on verso of title-page: "W. F. Hall, Printing Company, Chicago." A total of 10,200 copies were printed. Original dark brown vertically-ribbed cloth with front cover lettered in red, with a red circle (representing Mars, the Red Planet) just beneath the title, and with spine ruled and lettered in red. Slightly skewed; lower corners lightly bumped; spine extremities softened and beginning to fray, with some possible recoloring; cloth blistering at fore-edge of rear cover; a few areas of slight discoloration on both covers; red lettering rubbed and faded in places on the front cover; lettering on the spine still bright, but rules at top and bottom with a bit of loss; edges and endpapers foxed; vertical crease down the center of the rear free endpaper. Occasional light to moderate foxing, heaviest on the plates and facing text pages; occasional minor marginal smudging or soiling; small adhesion in the text on page 35, affecting one letter, and corresponding abrasion on page 34; small adhesion in the lower margin of page x, causing a faint stain in the lower margin of pages vii-xii; a few additional tiny adhesions and faint stains; quarter-inch tear to top edge of pages 195/196; tiny split at lower edge of gutter of a few leaves; a few leaves with tiny edge chips or nicks; the center two leaves in several gatherings with browning in the gutter from the stitching threads; over-opened in a few places; several leaves with slight creasing in the lower margin. A very good copy. In the original (?) color pictorial dust jacket with artwork by Frank E. Schoonover depicting John Carter, sword in hand, and Dejah Thoris behind him, on the front panel (reproduced in sepia as the frontispiece). There is extensive restoration to the dust jacket, with much of the spine lettering possibly supplied in manuscript, and it appears to have been additionally varnished. Still, it presents well in its protective mylar wrapper.
A Princess of Mars was Edgar Rice Burroughs's first published story, originally written in 1911, and first published in six parts as "Under the Moons of Mars" in The All-Story, February-July 1912, under the pseudonym "Norman Bean" (he had intended the pseudonym to be "Normal Bean"). The story had several working titles, including "My First Adventure on Mars," "The Green Martians," and "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess." Each installment had a black-and-white headpiece by Fred W. Small.
Bleiler, The Checklist of Science-Fiction and Supernatural Fiction (1978), p. 35. Bleiler, Science-Fiction: The Early Years, 304; Clareson, Science Fiction in America, 1870s-1930s, 115; Cawthorn and Moorcock, Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, 25; Heins PM-1 ("John Carter's advent on Mars, his meeting with the fierce fifteen-foot green men and the Earth-like red men, his adventures with his Princess, Dejah Thoris, and his fateful return to Earth"); Reginald 02307; Zeuschner (1996) 424; Zeuschner (2016), p. 249, no. 3.
"This profoundly seminal work written in 1911 virtually singlehandedly created and then explored a new genre of adventure fiction, the interplanetary romance. The story belongs to the tradition of Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and the lost race novels of H. Rider Haggard, but it led the direction of scientific fiction novels into a new realm for the next several decades, and its influence upon future generations of writers, astronomers and politicians is well-documented. As such it is one cornerstone of what later became science fiction. Although it was the first story written by ERB, it was the hardcover success of his Tarzan of the Apes which opened the door for hardback publication of other titles by Burroughs. Thus, although this tale of Mars was the first fiction he wrote, this is the fifth hardback which was published under Burroughs' name. ERB made sure that his six-page foreword appeared in the hardback book" (Zeuschner (2016), p. 249).
"An absorbing tale of adventure and romance forty-three million miles from Earth. It is hardly too much to say it is the boldest piece of imaginative fiction in this generation. John Carter, American, goes to sleep in a mysterious cave in the Arizona desert and wakes up on the planet Mars. There he meets with a succession of weird and astounding adventures, which follow each other so rapidly as to make it impossible to stop reading until the story is finished. Think, of battling for a woman, beautiful as a houri, with the Green Men of Mars, creatures fifteen feet high, and of fearsome aspect, with two extra limbs which will function either as legs or arms, of horses like dragons, and watchdogs like enormous frogs, with ten legs. These are some of the extraordinary creatures of Mars. Only the man who created Tarzan, the Ape Man, could write so bold a story" (rear panel of dust jacket).
"This pioneering account of John Carter's magical transmission to the planet Mars and his subsequent baroque adventures established a new template for fiction set on other planets, developing such imaginative spaces as arenas for exuberantly uninhibited tales of exotic derring-do. Although the series ran out of steam after seven volumes, it was sustained for a further four, at least on incorporating material by another hand. A similar series set on Venus failed to recover the spirit of the original, and imitations by other hands...never quite replicated Burroughs's imaginative zest. Although it hardly qualifies as science-based speculative fiction, Burroughs's account of Barsoom [i.e., Mars] was enormously influential in pulp SF, standing at the head of a rich subgenre of 'planetary romances' whose evolution was carried forward by such writers as C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and Ray Bradbury" (Neil Barron, Anatomy of Wonder (2004) II-194).
Dedication (on page [v]) "To My Son Jack" (the author's younger son, John Coleman Burroughs, 1913-1979)-"a boy at the time this first Mars book was dedicated to him, he would become (a quarter century later) the illustrator of the last two Mars books" (Heins).
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