STANDOUT RARITIES INCLUDE TARZAN, FRANKENSTEIN AND H.P. LOVECRAFT
Tarzan’s first swing, Frankenstein’s first steps and The Vampyre’s first bite. These are but some of the highlights from one of the most extraordinary collections of horror and fantasy works ever to appear at auction.
On Oct. 14, Heritage Auctions will present The Gary Munson Collection of Horror and Fantasy Rare Books, which brims with myriad genre-defining works, ranging from the debut of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ King of the Jungle to the very first appearances of some of literature’s most terrifying creatures. The Munson collection is a comprehensive lesson in fiction, made up of the best of supernatural, horror, mystery and science fiction from the inception of each genre to each field’s most iconic figures.
This collection represents not only the best of these genres, but the history of each laid out in a vast array of limited editions, signed and inscribed copies, rare dust jackets, manuscripts, letters, notes, annotations and much, much more.
The sale comes out swinging with the debut of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, often called the author’s greatest and most enduring literary creation. Tarzan first appeared in the pages of The All-Story magazine in October 1912, his iconic look (and bravery) captured in the stunning cover art by Clinton Pettee. Noted Burroughs bibliographer Robert B. Zeuschner calls this title “one of the rarest and most desirable of all the Burroughs items,” partly due to its status within the genre and pop culture but also due to the fragile nature of pulp magazines. As rare a find as a man living wild in the jungle, this edition is one worth wrestling a lion for.
For those looking for something a little more chilling, this event also features an enviable first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The monster first came to life one fateful night in the Villa Diodati, Lord Byron’s escape along Lake Geneva in Switzerland, where he, the soon-to-wed Shelleys, John Polidori and Mary’s stepsister, Claire Clairmont, passed three days during the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. The cold and rain kept the group sequestered in the house, where they warmed themselves by the fire and challenged each other to craft new and thrilling horror stories.
Rare that an evening of fireside ghost stories would birth a classic of both the science fiction and horror genre; rarer still that it was chiefly crafted at the hand of a young woman, a legacy that endures and defines classic literature to this day. From the gloom and shadows of that evening would be born other bumps in the night, including the beginnings of Lord Byron’s unfinished vampire tale (A Fragment) and Polidori’s The Vampyre (inspired by Byron’s Fragment), the latter of which is also featured in this sale.
No discussion of genre-defining work is complete without a mention of H.P. Lovecraft. Though he is a somewhat controversial character, there can be no doubt that his curious mind, monstrous creations and bone-chilling descriptions of creeping madness continue to shape the horror genre – and will well into the future. There is a reason we describe the worst of our nightmares as Lovecraftian: because H.P. Lovecraft shined a spotlight on all the darkest corners of our world and our minds.
As rare and secretive as the Eldritch gods themselves is this copy of an autographed manuscript signed for the short story Pickman’s Model. Featuring 16 leaves of Lovecraft’s spidery handwriting, the manuscript is not only signed by Lovecraft, but is also written on the backs of 15 letters written to the author himself. Purportedly, Lovecraft was no fan of typewriters and often used the backs of correspondence, notes and other scrap paper for getting down his ideas. These unique letters contain a laundry list of recognizable names of Lovecraft’s peers and provide unique insight into the publication timeline of the story and Lovecraft’s correspondence and interactions in the years leading up to publication.
These items represent only the mere surface of the thrills lurking within this auction, the breadth of which is perhaps best described by Lovecraft’s own words: “I don’t have to tell you why a Fuseli really brings a shiver while a cheap ghost-story frontispiece merely makes us laugh. There’s something those fellows catch – beyond life – that they’re able to make us catch for a second.”