I was both surprised and very happy to receive a copy of ‘The Collectors’ Book Of Virgil Finlay’ by Robert Weinberg, Douglas Ellis and Robert T. Garcia because I put out a feeler as to its availability and lucked out. Limited edition books rarely fall into the hands of reviewers although as a general note, it does make me wonder how they can publicise it otherwise. Co-author Bob Garcia was more than obliging and filled me in on some details. The book is glorious from the start in not only having a thick cover but heavy paper pages and positively felt like I was holding a tome.
The writers of this book from their introductions are collectors of Virgil Finlay’s original work and as they relate, when they first started buying, were ridiculously cheap because no one had thought of their potential worth. The size of the book was determined by the size of the original art. Virgil Finlay actually drew 1:1 for much of his career. That means you are seeing the art full size which is also a rarity in artbooks.
Do I have to tell you who Virgil Finlay was? If ever there was an artist who epitomised the start of quality art in the early American pulps and SF magazines, then it must surely be Virgil Finlay. A capable and often self-taught artist, he could switch from black and white illustration to colour in a heartbeat. Finlay was attracted to SF simply because he thought he could better than the artists they had there and got in with his first samples in ‘Weird Tales’. Editor Farnsworth Wright thought that the art wouldn’t reproduce well on the pulp paper but was proven wrong. Any of you out there who can pencil and ink will look at this work and jaw-drop simply out of admiration for this time-consuming work he spent on each piece of work as he detailed the texture that the JPGs here can never show to their full detail. Even from the work collected here, there is variety from not only our genre but pieces based off William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’. Did I say his ability with texture is unsurpassed. I have one other thin book from 1978 showing off Finlay’s work and it really doesn’t do him justice compared to this one.
In his introduction, Robert Weinberg explains how Finlay got his stippling effect using a very fine 290 lithographic pen. With scratchboard, he didn’t work from black to white but the other way around. For that time period, Finlay stretched what could be done with art and more importantly, in our genre. Looking at the art, I suspect a lot of commercial tone (the Americans call it ‘zip-a-tone’) came about emulating what he did by hand. I tried it copying it in my youth and it is a painstaking way to work and absolutely jaw-dropping to see the master of it at work. These fan writers also point out that this is the first book to feature Finlay’s colour covers.
Finlay’s paintings, for the most part, are brightly coloured but when you consider the printing process of the pulps and often non-gloss paper, I suspect this was to compensate for that. Here, you see the originals as painted.
Although some people tend to collect original art for their monetary value, we are really the custodians to preserve them for future generations who would otherwise never see them. It wasn’t until the late 70s that SF art followed the path of comicbook art in getting a financial value and Finlay’s works have soared from about $7.00 each to well over $20,000 each but it also enabled these collectors to put together what is now a priceless collection. You couldn’t even afford to see an original collection of Finlay’s art like this now.
As you can see from the indicia below, only the normal hardback is left now. Even so, other books showing Finlay’s work are expensive and elusive enough as it is in the secondary market. As it contains some samples of his painted work, this book must surely stand out from the rest. If you have a love of early SF art and especially Virgil Finlay then this book deserves a place in your collection and away from the coffee table where your friends might want to ‘borrow’ it. When you show them your copy, keep a firm grip on it. You won’t want to lose it.
(pub: American Fantasy Press. 208 page illustrated large limited edition
Signed hardback. Price: $125.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-9907846-0-9. 425 copies.
Signed Kickstarter limited edition hardback. Price: $ 95.00 (US). ISBN: 978-0-9907846-1-6. 90 copies SOLD OUT. It had a red cover.
Signed large limited leatherbound edition hardback. Price: $200.00 (US) ISBN: 978-0-99078463-2-3. $200.00 (US) SOLD OUT) It had a gold cover.
check out website: www.americanfantasypress.com