Science Fiction and Fantasy from Barry R. Levin
Barry R. Levin's 32nd Anniversary catalogue
By Michael Stillman
This is our first review of a catalogue from Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature. It is hardly the first catalogue from Levin. In fact, we are starting with their "32nd Anniversary Highlights." Levin, of Santa Monica, California, is a major dealer in the fantasy and science fiction field. Most of the books in this catalogue are either first editions, or special printings and signed copies. While the tales may be quite fantastic, the books are very real. Here are a few of them.
One of the favorite subjects of fantasy literature is the discovery of a lost race. Here is a very early example. The title is, The Memoirs of Sigr Guadentio Di Lucca...Making a Discovery of an Unknown Country in the Midst of the Vast Deserts of Africa... Mr. Di Lucca tells of the ancient and highly civilized society he finds deep inside the continent. He recounts their history, customs, religion, and how they got across the deserts in the first place. The book was copied from the original manuscript kept at St. Mark's Library in Venice, and translated to English from the original Italian. Of course, this part is as fake as the story itself. It was written in English and published anonymously, though the author is now known to be Simon Berington. Along with "lost race" collections, this book fits a collection of utopian books as well. Item 13. Published in 1737. Priced at $1,500.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is indelibly linked to his famous character, Tarzan of the Apes. Those books certainly fit into the character of fantasy, but fewer people are aware that Burroughs was, even before Tarzan, a science fiction writer. In fact, he produced both a Mars and a Venus series of books, along with many others. If nothing, Burroughs was prolific. And while few people, including Burroughs himself, considered his work great literature, it was, and still is, amazingly popular. Item 26 is the original contract Burroughs signed with publisher A.C. McClurg & Co. for the first edition of his 1922 novel, The Chessmen of Mars. The contract comes in a frame with a picture of Burroughs. $6,500. Item 27 is a copy of the first edition of the first of Burroughs' Mars series, A Princess of Mars. Published by McClurg in 1917. $800.
Another science fiction writer better remembered for other things is L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard, of course, was the founder of the Church of Scientology, which has attracted several celebrities and many followers, while also generating its share of controversy along the way. While science fiction is what Hubbard is second most remembered for, he also wrote a few westerns. In fact, his first book was a western. It portrays the Blackfeet Indians at the time of Lewis and Clark and problems encountered with the Hudson's Bay Company. The book takes the perspective of a white child raised by Indians, and is said to be sympathetic to the Native Americans' situation, somewhat unusual for the time (1937). The book was published shortly before Hubbard began developing the theories which became scientology. Its title is Buckskin Brigades, and this is a first edition with its rare dust jacket. Item 57. $5,000.
Science Fiction and Fantasy from Barry R. Levin
Item 103 is a classic of science fiction horror made real by events that were to follow. The book is Metropolis by Thea Von Harbou, this being the first edition published in 1926. This story would be turned into the famed silent film of the same name by Von Harbou's then husband, Fritz Lang. Metropolis is a city of the future, specifically, the year 2026, at the time a century away. On the surface, it is a city of great advancement and luxury, with people living wonderful lives. Underneath, however, in a dark underground world, workers slavishly run the machines that operate the beautiful city above. This being a German film, it is hard to miss the parallels with the concentration camps and slave labor that would come to be only a little more than a decade hence. After the Nazis came to power, Lang, an opponent, was still offered a high filmmaking role by the government, but wisely chose to escape to America. Von Harbou chose a different path, joining the Nazi party and becoming a filmmaker for them. Not surprisingly, they would divorce. This book signifies better times, when horrors were still fantasy. $19,500.
Some books seem to climb in value at rates beyond all comprehension. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is one such book. First editions could be had in the 1960s for a few hundred dollars, still close to a thousand in 1980. Today copies of this 1818 edition go for well over one hundred thousand dollars. Item 88 is the third edition of this classic, from 1831, but this edition has the distinction of being the first illustrated one. The third also includes Mrs. Shelley's new introduction explaining the origin of the tale. This copy is bound together with The Ghost-Seer by Schiller and Edgar Huntley by Charles Brockden Brown. $12,500.
In 1977, Harlan Ellison signed on to develop a filmscript based on Isaac Asimov's collection of stories, I Robot. He created a script that many people consider perhaps the best film never made. Ellison submitted the script to Warner Brothers, but despite his urgings, and support from Asimov, the film studio was not satisfied. The film was never made, although Warner Brothers would later consent to it being published as a book. Eventually, a film of the same name starring Will Smith was released, but this used a totally different script. Item 36 is one of only ten copies of Ellison's filmscript produced in 1978, and carries his signature. $1,500.
But...is this an item of science fiction and fantasy? It is the Apollo 11 Mission Commentary. Apollo 11 was the mission in which man first landed on the moon, or at least that's what they told us. This is the document issued by Mission Control to the press about ten minutes after Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It includes a verbatim transcript of the conversation between Armstrong and Houston, including his famous line, "That's one small step for man, one giant step for mankind." Only a small number of these were printed for reporters on the scene and several were likely discarded. Now I know that some people believe that Armstrong's walk on the moon was science fiction, a ruse perpetrated on the public by NASA. Sort of a modern day "War of the Worlds." However, I'm one of those naive souls who actually believe this happened, that this is the one piece of nonfiction in a catalogue of tall and spectacular tales from the imaginary worlds of some of the most creative minds we have known.
Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature may be found online at www.raresf.com and reached by phone at 310-458-6111.