Is this reality or an eleborate hoax? That’s a good question which I was going to try and answer, but stopped when I paged through the 8 issues of The Arkham Sampler. I found a great article on the book which ansswered most of my questions, and posed a few others. Perhaps somebody should go about compiling a Bibliography on this phantom title? Rather than going out and trying to find the original, which is elusive and expensive wait a little while and purchase The Arkham House Facsimile Edition written up elsewhere in this blog. If you do decide to purchase the originals, a set sold at a recent book show for $250.00. The problem is the purchaser can’t really subject them to a careless bedside read, because they are printed on post war (1948-1949) pulp paper, and they have a significant tendency to fall apart. This is a strange paradox — purchasing books you can’t read if you want to retain their value! However purchasing the Necronomicon is no problem, any “legitimate” copy will only contain blank verse!
Category Archives: Lovecraft, H. P.
When my friend John Haefele suggested I publish his monograph Lest We Forget, I was pleased to do so, and the link to the webpage is appended here: http://www.batteredbox.com/ArkhamHouse/Lest%20We%20Forget.htm
This is an important piece of scholarship, because John has methodically worked through Derelth’s writings over his entire career and collected everything Derleth had to say about H.P. Lovecraft. What he said is important, but even more important is WHEN he said it. There is no doubt in my mind Derleth forms an important cornerstone, in the present day cult of Lovecraftian literature. And a gentle, but firm — “shame on you” to those nay-sayers who have previously prostelatized otherwise in printed and written word. To put it another way, perhaps controversial, Derleth and Wandrei rescued Lovecraft from the obscurity of pulp literature of the first half off the 20th century.
When I visited Bob Weinberg at his home in Chicago in 2007 while I was travelling to Sauk City to attend the Walden West Fetival there. We talked about many things, but one of the items he mentioned was that he had recently returned to April Derleth an incomplete set with some duplicates of the original uncut signatures for “The Shunned House.” He lamented that it would have indeed been a rare and valuable item if the set had been complete. I saw April later that weekend and she gave me the handful, that is, 17 individual signatures to be exact, of folded uncut sheets of eight pages each.
My friend Dan Boulden and I gazed at the sheets back at Kay Price’s home and thought an Arkham House facsimile edition was in order, and I asked April’s permission to proceed. I gave the sheets to Dan, and subsequently he personally prepared a numbered edition of 50, with the idea that we would print another 50 if interest warranted, but no more than 100. He also prepared a lettered edition of 17. Each volume in this contained a pocket, for a single uncut signature.
The two editions have now appeared and the numbered edition has been now issued in a limited edition numbered 1- 100. The reader can check at http://www.batteredbox.com/ArkhamHouse/ShunnedHouse.htm for further details.
I include below the article that Bob Weinberg wrote about the background to the edition, which is also very interesting.
The Truth About The Shunned House Hardcover
by Robert Weinberg
Perhaps the oddest book ever published by Arkham House was the 100 copy hardcover edition of The Shunned House. While the basic facts regarding the book are common knowledge, the actual inspiration for its hardcover publication have never been known. This short article hopefully will serve as an answer to that question which has plagued collectors for nearly 50 fifty years.
“The Shunned House,” a long horror novelette, was written by H.P. Lovecraft during the week of October 16-19, 1924. The house of the story was based in part on a real house in Providence, R.I. located at 135 Benefit Street. Lovecraft’s aunt lived in the house in 1919-1920. The inspiration for the story was another house, one located in Elizabeth, New Jersey (not far from where Bob grew up, which may explain many things!) at the northeast corner of Bridge Street and Elizabeth Avenue.1Of that house, Lovecraft wrote that it was a “hellish place where night-black deeds must have been done in the early seventeen-hundreds.” In the same letter, he further explained “its image came up again with renewed vividness, finally causing me to write a new horror story with its scene in Providence and with the Babbit House as its basis.”2
In 1928, Lovecraft’s friend, and fellow small-press enthusiast, W. Paul Cook, proposed publishing “The Shunned House,” as a 250 copy Recluse Press hardcover book. Lovecraft was agreeable and Cook printed the sheets of the book. It was poorly typeset and contained a short introduction by Frank Belknap Long. However, according to August Derleth, Cook was always out of funds to pay to bind the book, and he totally abandoned the project when he moved from Massachusetts to Vermont several years later.3 Cook gave the unbound sheets to Lovecraft. In 1936, eighteen year old Robert Barlow took it on himself to hand bind around a dozen sets of the sheets. One of the books was of course for Lovecraft. The others he sent out to some of Lovecraft’s closest friends. The rest of the sheets remained unbound for the duration of Lovecraft’s life. Lovecraft died on March 15, 1937. Submitted by his friends after his death, “The Shunned House” was finally published in the October 1937 issue of Weird Tales.
Robert Barlow took possession of the unbound sheets after Lovecraft’s death. He did nothing with them. On January 2, 1951, Barlow committed suicide in Azcapotzalco, Mexico, where he had been studying early Mexican history. According to Derleth, Barlow’s friends in Mexico City sent the sheets to Derleth based on the two men’s correspondence about Lovecraft. Derleth received approximately 150 sets of the unbound sheets.
Derleth did nothing with the unbound sheets for the next few years. Then, in 1959, he began offering sets of the sheets for sale at $15.00 each. Despite the reasonable price, (most Arkham House books from the period were price at $3.50–$4.00 each), not many of the sheets sold. In the 1960 catalog, Derleth advertised the sheets again. The ad read “THE SHUNNED HOUSE. Unbound sheets of the rare first, never published edition, done by Cook in 1928. Only a few sets remain for sale. For collectors only. $15.00.”4
It was in late 1961 that long-time fantasy book collector, Sam Peeples wrote to his friend Derleth about buying a copy of The Shunned House. Peeples, however, didn’t want unbound sheets which would need some sort of special box or slipcase for storage. Instead, he proposed to Derleth that when the next Arkham House book was bound, Derleth would have a set of the pages of the unpublished book trimmed and bound with the press’s usual binding.5 Derleth agreed, telling Peeples by return mail, that the cost of the binding, complete with lettering on the spine of the volume, would cost an additional $10.6
Peeples’ idea of binding the unbound sheets of The Shunned House in Arkham House binding obviously appealed to Derleth. In a letter to Peeples written later that year, he wrote:
“I’m glad to know that the bound copy of The Shunned House reached you in good order. I had it bound uniformly with other Arkham House books, and, since I had a few other copies, I had them all done at once.”8
In the new books announcement for 1962 Arkham House, Derleth listed the volume thusly:
“Lovecraft collectors may like to know that we have bound the last remaining sets of the sheets of The Shunned House in a binding uniform with the binding of most of our books, under the Arkham House imprint, sans jacket of course, and these last copies will be sold at $17.50 a copy.”9
According to Derleth, approximately 100 sets of the sheets were bound in hardcover. Within a year, the bound hardcover copies of The Shunned House were gone. By late 1962, the book was listed out of print. What hadn’t sold as unbound sheets, sold fairly quickly (for an Arkham House book), in hardcover book format. Thus, it was an unusual request from a dedicated Arkham House collector that brought into existence the rarest of all Arkham House hardcovers.
1 H. P. Lovecraft, Selected Letters Vol. I, p. 357 (as quoted in Wikipedia, The Shunned House, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shunned_House#_note-1
5 New Books from Arkham House: Coming in 1961
6 Peeples, Sam, “Letter to August Derleth,” August 1961
7 Derleth, August, “Letter to Sam Peeples,” August 16, 1961
8 Derleth, August, “Letter to Sam Peeples,” November 2, 1961
9 New Books from Arkham House: Coming in 1962
I first met John D. Haefele at The Walden West Festival in 2008; John had a project he was working on and I agreed to publish it.
John and I discussed many things that day in Sauk City: 1) August Derleth’s Comic Book collection and the unpublished manuscript on comics. 2) The many collections of Mythos stories by Lovecraft and other writers, and the fact that nobody has yet produced a collection of historical merit, nor tried to understand or frame properly August Derleth’s contributions. 3) A updated version of Derleth’s Bibliography as first published by Alison M. Wilson in 1982 by The Scarecrow Press. and finally 4) the lack of information on the multiple magazine appearances of Derleth’s poetry opus. We agreed that these are all issues that we can work on in the years to come.
Here is John’s commentary about the contents of this monograph which has obviously been compiled in much detail over many years:
Lest We Forget is a reminder to everyone about the important role August Derleth had in fostering the literary reputation of H.P. Lovecraft until Lovecraft was well on the way to becoming the canonical American author he is in 2008. Specifically, it is directed to the generation of Lovecraft aficionados and critics who upon the heels of Derleth benefitted from his nearly half-century of devotion to a friend. Where what Derleth wrote might now seem commonplace, it is nevertheless interesting to note just when he wrote. — John D. Haefele