Sunday, June 2, 2013

Drawing on the Past #11: Edwin & Harold Betts

Work: Prince Izon by James Paul Kelly
(A. C. McClurg, 1910)
Listed in 333, a bibliography of lost race, fantasy, super-natural and science fiction works.

Artists:  Harold H. Betts & Edwin Betts, Jr.

One of the many lost race novels that were popular from the late Victorian era through the early 20th century Prince Izon deviates from the usual African and South American tales and instead chooses for its setting the good ol' U S of A. In the story Professor Raymon and his team of explorers, along with their American Indian guide, go in search of a forgotten tribe who are presumed to be living in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  They get more than they bargained for when they encounter a tribe of Aztec warriors led by the title character.

Harold and Edwin Betts were the sons of Edwin Betts, Sr, a well established artist in Chicago who taught both his sons  and daughter Grace in painting. Edwin Jr. had an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 19th century.  Other than that I could find little info about Edwin.  His brother, on the other hand, has a much more prominent presence on the internet.

Harold Betts was an illustrator for magazines and books and an accomplished landscape and portrait painter.  He traveled to the Southwest and began specializing in the Grand Canyon and its environs making him the perfect choice for illustrating Prince Izon. Like Edwin, Harold also showed his paintings at the Art Institute.  A list I found at the U. S. Department of the State website gives the dates of eight different exhibitions at the AIC. Many of Harold's paintings are part of a large collection at the Smithsonian Institute and show he spent time in Rio Grande Pueblos from Taos to Santa Domingo; in Colorado Springs, Colorado; at the Grand Canyon, on the Navajo and Hopi reservations; and in Southern California.

Among the illustrations Betts did for books are Princess Sayrane by Edith Ogden Harrison and Ruth of the USA by Edwin Balmer.  All of the illustrations in Princess Sayrane can be viewed here.  Some of his paintings sold at auction can be seen at ArtFact, LiveAuctioneers, AskArt, and various other sites. Harold Betts' work is collectible and found in numerous galleries and private collections throughout North America and Europe.

Below are the five full color plates found in my copy of Prince Izon.  Two -- the one used for the plate on the cover and the frontispiece battle scene -- are signed by Edwin Betts, the others are by his brother Harold.  Only the battle scene on the cliffside can be enlarged by clicking on the image.


  1. Sometimes I think the world was more thrilling when much of it was a mystery.

  2. I can't imagine what that book must've cost!

    1. You mean what I paid for it? Very little as a matter of fact. Sheer luck that day. I found it in a popular used bookstore in a trendy neighborhood in Chicago. They tend not to care about older fiction, especially old-fashioned stuff like this. But try to buy anything by Philip K. Dick or Burroughs and you'll pay through the nose.

      It's fairly easy to find a copy of Prince Izon, BTW. The cheapest one for sale online is only $7, but the paste-on plate on front board is scratched and the covers are worn. Copies in better condition start around $15 and go upwards the better the copy. No one really values these old treasures. It's sad I think.


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