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The Books That Helped Edgar Rice Burroughs Create “Tarzan of the Apes”


I’ve been a little quiet lately, in part because I’ve been doing some research on the “Africa of the mind” that Edgar Rice Burroughs had access to as he was writing Tarzan of the Apes in 1912.   It occurred to me that I should share what I’m finding and reading and thinking about.  So without a lot of commentary, here is a summary and links. Wherever possible, I’ve provided a link to the beautifully scanned first editions which is really almost like having the first edition in your hands.  All that’s missing is the old book smell.  When that’s not possible I’ve provided links to Project Gutenberg versions, or in some cases to Erbzine summary pages as well.  And by the way, one of the many admirable projects of the Burroughs Biblophiles and ERBzine has been to catalogue all of the books on the ERB bookshelf.  The master list of 1100 titles can be found here. 

By the way — for any of the ones where there is not a link to the actual text — it means I couldn’t find the text online. If you can find it, please share the link in a comment.

Africa Books on ERB’s Bookshelf


ABYSSINIA, S SOMALILAND, KENYA Colony, Zanzibar, the Comoros, Madagascar. (NY, Century, 1925)
AKELEY, Carl E. In Brightest Africa (4 copies)
BUELL, J.W. Heroes of the Dark Continent or How Stanley Found Emin Pasha (1890)
BURBRIDGE, Ben: Gorilla: Tracking and Capturing The Great Ape-Man of Africa (1928)
CAMERON, Commander V. Lovett: Savage Africa
CANOT, Captain Theodore: : Adventures of an African Slaver (1854)
CHILVERS, Hedley A.: Seven Wonders of South Africa (1929)
DYOTT: Silent Highways of the Jungle
STANLEY, Henry M.: In Darkest Africa (2 vols.)
DU CHAILLU, Paul: Lost in the Jungle ~ 1874
DU CHAILLU: In African Forests and Jungle
FINN, Frank   The Wild Beasts of the World (probably 1909)
FOSTER: Travels and Settlements of Early Man (1929)
GLANVILLE: Hunter: The Story of A Bushman’s Life (1926)
GLAVE: In Savage Africa (1892)
GREENWOOD, James ~ Curiosities of Savage Life – 1864 – London Strand
HALL, PALMER, DRYSDALE ET AL SPEARMAN  The Boy’s Book of Big Game Hunting (1916)
JARDINE, Douglas J: The Mad Mullah of Somaliland (1923)
KEARTON, Cherry: In the Land of the Lion(1929)
KINGSTON, W. H. G. ~ In the Wilds of Africa – Tales for Boys – London, Nelson Bergen New York 1879
LYELL, Denis D.: Memories of an African Hunter
MASAVUKE. The White African; the Story of Masavuke “who dies and lives again.” Told by himself at the request of his relatives and friends. Morse Press1933. Inscribed: “Burroughs, December 1, 1933.”
PATTERSON, Lieut Col. J.H.: The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and Other East African Adventures ~ 1914 ~ MacMillan and Co. London
PEASE, Sir Alfred E.: The Book of the Lion ~ 1913
PRENTICE, Harry ~ Captured by Apes or How Philip Garland became King of Apeland – 1892 A L Burt
PRENTICE, Harry ~ Captured by Zulus 1st  1890 A L Burt
Reid, Mayne ~ Afloat in the Forest – Voyage Among the Tree Tops – Manny Reed – Stoddard Knocks 1885 – Preface 1869
O’NEIL: Adventures in Swaziland (1921)
STONEHAM, C. T.: King of the Jungle
THOMPSON, Ernest Seton: Wild Animals I have Known ~ 1898
VAN DYKE, W. S. “Woody”: Horning Into Africa
WHITNEY, Casper: Jungle Trails & Jungle People
WILDER: The White African
WILLIS: Living Africa

Du Chaillu and Buel

Of all the authors and titles above, Du Chaillu and Buel are the ones that may have had the most influence on Burroughs.  In the future I will be writing in detail about each one.  For now, if you’re interested in exploring, you  can click on the image below and it will take you to where you can read a first edition of Du Chaillu’s Lost in the Jungle at

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Also here is the link to the excellent Erbzine Du Chaillu compilation page. which includes links to other Du Chaillu books, plus illustrations.

And here is a gallery of the illustrations from Lost in the Jungle.

Shooting a Leopard Royal Canoe du Chaillu Wounded du Chaillu Watching Birds and Monkeys du Chaillu Shooting a Gazelle du Chaillu Great apes du Chaillu Caught by Jack du Chailu Gorilla sleeping du Chailu Catching the Ogombons du Chailu Bit by a Spider du Chaillu Death of a Bull Elephant du Chaillu Eagle du Chaillu Killed by a Gorilla du Chaillu Goodbye to Quengueza Chally don't let me die du Chaillu Song of the Ilogo Beads to Wife du Chaillu Going to Ashira Land du Chaillu King of the Ashiras du Chaillu Drinking Plaintain Beer Attack on the wild board du Chaillu Crossing the Ovigui River du Chaillu The Elephant Trap du Chaillu The Music Box du Chaillu Okabi nd the Leopard du Chaillu




As for Buel, click on the image below to go to the excellent Erbzine page on Buel:

Heroes of the Dark Continent


And you can click on the image below to read the full book at

Buel Dark Continent



And if you made it all the way to the end …. well, you’re pretty hard core like me, so I will inflict upon you the pitch for John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood, which I’m pretty sure you would enjoy if you got this far with this post.


“A fair, factual, and enlightening assessment of what went wrong . . . the best corporate history I’ve read since Disney War.” Daniel Butcher, Between Disney.

“A winning book . . . . I have no reservations in recommending John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood. Even if you only remotely hold an interest in the film or the moviemaking method, do yourself a favor and purchase this book. I cannot remember an instance when I read 350 pages of anything in 24 hours, but my level of captivation in how methodically and interestingly the content was presented should substantiate why John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a must-read. Grade A.” Brett Nachman, Geeks of Doom.

“A must read for every fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Carter and every film buff intrigued by the ‘inside baseball’ aspects of modern Hollywood.” Richard A. Lupoff, Author of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Master of Adventure

“Extensively researched . . . fascinating . . . an engrossing experience, kind of like watching the Titanic headed for the fateful iceberg. Josh Whalen,


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