H.P. Lovecraft’s Invisible Library December 27, 2011Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback
***This post is dedicated to Phil P who suggested and advised***
H.P. Lovecraft is said to be a horror writer. It would be truer to say that, like his near contemporary Arthur Machen, he wrote about evil, evil without consolation of good. A teenage Beachcombing had several uncomfortable nights on HPL’s account and an adult Beachcombing just got rid, last week, of Alan Moore’s impressive but nightmarish contribution to the Mythos, Neonomicon. Beach just didn’t want to sleep under the same roof as that thing.
However, none of this pettiness should take away from HPL’s extraordinary imaginative reach. And given that HPL loved littering his text with references to imaginary books, it seems only fair that HPL is treated to an invisible library post, where imagined but unwritten books are gathered together.
First, though a warning. There are three problems with creating such a list.
(1) HPL sprinkled credible imagined and fantastic real volumes through his works indiscriminately. It is, therefore, not always simple to understand what is real and what is not. Then sometimes, just to complicate things a little further, he borrowed invented books from other authors: e.g. The Marvells of Science from Ambrose Pierce.
(2) Many successful authors have imitators but HPL created, with other authors, a literate community of fantasists [sic] working within the Mythos and feeding off each other. The normal complaint of better Jung than a Jungian doesn’t work here as HPL encouraged such behaviour. Things then became more complicated still as some books were invented by colleagues but then taken up in turn by HPL! The sort of criss-crossing acts literary incest you get in the Carolingian poets…
(3) Just to really put the boot in to any Invisible Librarians out there… At least one of these imaginary books, the Necronomicon has since been written, several times, and in several forms by imitators, and even by opportunists claiming that the Necronomicon truly did exist. Laughing all the way to the bank arm in arm with John Dee…
With these short apologies here is a certainly incomplete shelf from HPL’s invisible library. Now take Beach’s advice. Flick your eyes along the titles, walk to the door (possibly with the Saurian Age under your arm), lock the door and never go back.
Azathoth and Other Horrors by Edward Pickman Derby.
Book of Azathoth, initiates must sign their name in blood in this work.
Liber Damnatus: the Damned Book.
Of Evill Sorceries done in New-England of Daemons in no Humane Shape.
Thaumaturgicall Prodigies in the New-English Canaan, Rev. Wards Philip.
The Book of Eibon with a description of a magician’s journey to the planet Shaggai.
The Dhol Chants.
The Eltdown Pottery Shards, edited by Gordon Whitney in the Eltdown Shards: a partial translation.
The King in Yellow, a play that drives the reader to suicide or madness. Actually invented by Robert W. Chambers, but picked up by HPL.
The Necronomicon (al-Azif), by Abdul Alhazred.
The Pnakotic Manuscripts translated into Greek as the Pnakotica: from the city of, you’ve guessed it, Pnakotus.
The Saurian Age.
The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan: Divination Text of Chinese Origin.
The Tablets of Nhing: Don’t worry, kept on the planet Yaddith, as such we are unlikely to come across them.
The Zanthu Black Jade Tablets (naturally written in characters from the language of the Sunken Continent of Mu!).
Unaussprechlichen Kulten [Unsayable Cults] probably written by Friedrich Wilhelm Von Junzt.
Beachcombing wrote this with a proper sense of modesty, he is no expert on HPL. Any corrections please: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
27/12/11: Phil P again to the rescue ‘One minor correction though, Unausprechlichen Kulten actually was invented by Robert E. Howard, who gained fame as the father of Conan The Barbarian. He also wrote in the Lovecraft mythos. In fact, he contributed enough short fiction to fill a book.’ Thanks Phil!
30/12/11: Mikulpepper from Shrine of Dreams writes in with this on the Necronomicon: ‘Not only have there been various claimants to the Necronomicon title, one of them actually reprinted a text of Aleister Crowley’s and titled it The Necronomicon. I don’t know what the copyright situation was about this but I argued long and unsuccessfully with a person who thought that this was indeed the writings of the mad Arab Abdul al-Hazred. (Late 1960s, early 1970s?). Al, meanwhile, writes in ‘You should include De Vermis Mysteriis, (Mysteries of the Worm) by Ludwig Prinn. Created by Robert Bloch, “the tome first appeared in his short story “The Shambler from the Stars” (1935), in which a character reads a passage from the book and accidentally summons an extradimensional horror’. Thanks Al and Mikulpepper!
3 Jan 2012: Mark L writes in with these welcome corrections: ‘I don’t usually email bloggers out of the blue, but you DID ask for corrections… The Book of Eibon was a creation of Clark Ashton Smith, not H. P. Lovecraft. Smith wrote a few short stories describing the adventures of Eibon, including one which was supposed to be an excerpt from the book. The Eltdown Shards were first dreamed up by Richard F. Searight, but I believe HPL was the first to actually use them in a story. Searight was a horror writer whose work has, as far as I know, only been reprinted in a series of chapbooks by Necronomicon Press in the 90s and the occasional anthology appearance. Also, you might consider including Cultes des Goules, by the Comte d’Erlette, which was invented by either Robert Bloch or August Derleth. (Wikipedia claims Bloch, but I know Derleth claimed it as his own.) Pretty much all of Lovecraft’s circle had at least one book that they made up, and part of the rite of passage of every Cthulhu Mythos writer is inventing their own. (I have myself.) Wikipedia has a good list on Cthulhu Mythos arcane literature and Cthulhu Mythos miscellaneous books. ‘ Thanks Mark L.