Rediscovered: Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Last Autograph?

For yesterday’s Autograph Hound Saturday, Kevin Cook unleashed a colorful cluster of Munsey cheques all endorsed by George Allan England. I thought they might completely cover England’s most famous work, but he tells me, “I actually do not have all the checks for the Darkness and Dawn trilogy, just the first two parts, ‘Darkness and Dawn’ and ‘Beyond the Great Oblivion.’ I never had an opportunity to buy checks for the third part, ‘The Afterglow.’ Of course, if offered, I would pursue it immediately.”

But if that was an ordinary Autograph Hound Saturday, what could he top it with for Autograph Hound Super-Sunday?

In my opinion, it’s a bold choice — from full color to a stark b&w image shot from a photocopy that passed through his hands. Still, you get the Super-Sunday oomph from catching a gander at what may well have been the last autograph inscription by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Kevin narrates:

“Edgar Rice Burroughs literally signed hundreds of books during his lifetime, but apparently only signed three pulp magazines that are known. For Forrest Ackerman he signed a copy of the October 1912 issue of All-Story with ‘Tarzan of the Apes.’ That magazine was auctioned off for something in the 40-50K range. For Vernell Coriell he also signed another October 1912 issue of All-Story — but also signed the February 1916 issue of All Around Magazine which contained his ‘Beyond Thirty.’ That All Around issue is easily the rarest pulp to ever include a Burroughs story.

“In the collected edition of the first twelve issues of The Burroughs Bulletin — in an article titled ‘A Visit to Tarzana’ — Vern Coriell writes: ‘. . . I had brought along some choice items from my collection which included the Oct. 1912 All Story magazine and Feb. 1916 All Around magazine. . . . I asked him if he would mind signing my copies of All-Story and All Around. . . . he said “Mr. Coriell, these are my last signatures, I shall never sign another.” 

“First of course, we only have Vern Coriell’s statement that ERB said it would be his last autograph, but ERB’s family — including his two sons — were present at the signing, and no one challenged Coriell’s statement which first saw print in 1956.     

“The only way to date the autograph is by the fact that Coriell accompanied ERB to the movie studio where Tarzan and the Slave Girl was being shot. I would guess late summer 1949.  

“The movie itself was released on March 15, 1950, just four days prior to Burroughs’ death. 

“This 1949 visit was also the scene of the last known photo of ERB, made at the movie studio. The photograph was printed as the inside back cover of Larry Ivie’s Monsters and Heroes #4, March 1969. Burroughs is seated in a wheelchair. Behind him l. to r. are Coriell, founder of the official ERB fan club, ERB’s grandson Mike Pierce, and Lex Barker, wearing the loincloth as the current cinematic Tarzan.

“You can see how frail ERB looks. He complains to Coriell about his poor health.

“If you read the last chapter of the Porges biography ERB had paralysis in his legs which required him to be pushed around in the wheelchair and he was generally in declining health from 1949 onward. It is also stated that normally ERB was too ill to be able to receive visitors.

“The signature is also not the firm Edgar Rice Burroughs you see on so many books from the preceding decades.       

“The only other lines that I can add from the account is Coriell again quoting ERB, ‘I hope you will be able to read this. I am so ashamed of my writing since I have been ill. I used to have a hand I was proud of.’

“And Burroughs to Lex Barker at the movie studio the next day, ‘No autographs. I signed my last one yesterday.'”  


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