Frequently, Lovecraft made reference to ancient, mouldering tomes that contained secrets man was not meant to know. Most of these were fictional, but a few of them were “legitimate” occult works. By mentioning factual and fictional documents in the same context, this helped to make the false books seem real. Lovecraft made only brief mentions of these books, primarily to add atmosphere, and rarely described them in any detail. The best-known of these fictional manuscripts is his Necronomicon, about which he said the most. So well-constructed was his information on this fabled text (helped along by modern-day hoaxers bent on making a profit from the ignorance of others) that people to this day believe this book to be real.
Invented by Clark Ashton Smith, Lovecraft made only a few passing references to this book in his stories: “...the fragmentary Book of Eibon...” (“The Dreams in the Witch House”), “...the frightful Book of Eibon...” (“The Thing on the Doorstep”), and “...the puzzling Book of Eibon...” (“The Shadow Out of Time”). In the last two years of his life, Lovecraft referred to two translations of this book: “..a Norman-French Livre d’Eibon...” (“The Diary of Alonzo Typer”) and “...the sinister Liber Ivonis...” (“The Haunter of the Dark”). Quotes from the book occur in Smith’s story, “Ubbo-Sathla.”
The name of the author of this book is based on the name of August Derleth, whose ancestors came from France and were named d’Erlette. Like many of these books, Lovecraft mentions this book a few rare times: “...the Comte d’Erlette’s Cultes des Goules...” (“The Shadow Out of Time”) and “...the infamous Cultes des Goules of Comte d’Erlette...” (“The Haunter of the Dark”).
Mysteries of the Worm and its author, Ludvig Prinn, were the creation of Robert Bloch, but the Latin title of the book, De Vermis Mysteriis, was invented by Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s mentions of this book are quite scant: “...Ludvig Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis...” (“The Shadow Out of Time”), “...old Ludvig Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis.” (“The Diary of Alonzo Typer”), and “...old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis Mysteriis...” (“The Haunter of the Dark”).
This work was created by Richard F. Searight, one of Lovecraft’s many correspondents. Lovecraft only mentions them in passing in “The Shadow Out of Time” and “The Diary of Alonzo Typer.”
One of Lovecraft’s best-known creations, he refers to the Necronomicon or Al Azif in no less than 18 of his stories. The original Arabic title of this manuscript was Al Azif, being a reference to the nocturnal sound of insects believed to be the howling of demons. Alhazred lived in Damascus, where the Necronomicon was written. In 738 A.D., he was set upon by an invisible monster who devoured him publicily in broad daylight. The Al Azif was translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople, who gave it the name Necronomicon. Olaus Wormius then made a Latin translation in 1228.
In 1232, shortly after Wormius’ translation, Pope Gregory IX banned both the Greek and Latin versions of the volume. Wormius indicates that the original Arabic text was lost by this time. Dr. John Dee made a translation into English, but only fragments of that version remain. At present, a 15th century Latin translation exists in the British Museum, and 17th century editions exist at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Widener Library at Harvard, the University of Buenos Aires, and the Miskatonic University at Arkham. Understandably, all these copies remain under lock and key.
The first appearance of the Necronomicon was in Lovecraft’s “The Hound” (September 1922), although Abdul Alhazred, the book’s author, was mentioned earlier in “The Nameless City” (January 1921). It was in this latter tale that the best-known quote from The Necronomicon first appeared:
That is not dead which can eternal lie,
And with strange aeons even death may die.
One of the longest and more powerful quotes from the Necronomicon is from “The Dunwich Horror”:
“Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substances walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men somtimes know them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones where Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.”
Both this book and its author were invented by Robert E. Howard, and Lovecraft only makes one reference to them in “The Thing on the Doorstep”:
“As time went by I turned to architecture and gave up my design of illustrating a book of Edward’s daemoniac poems, yet our comradeship suffered no lessening. Young Derby’s odd genius developed remarkably, and in his eighteenth year his collected nightmare-lyrics made a real sensation when issued under the title Azathoth and Other Horrors. He was a close correspondent of the notorious Baudelairean poet Justin Geoffrey, who wrote The People of the Monolith and died screaming in a madhouse in 1926 after a visit to a sinister, ill-regarded village in Hungary.”
Much more information on Justin Geoffrey can be found in Robert E. Howard’s “The Black Stone.”
Another invention of Lovecraft’s, he refers to the Pnakotic Manuscripts or Fragments in 11 of his tales, second only to the Necronomicon. In spite of this frequency, no more details are given about the nature or content of these texts than most of the books listed here. Many of these references are in Lovecraft’s “Dreamlands” tales, although many of them are in the tales of his “Arkham Cycle.” These texts were supposedly written before the advent of man, and are described as being “mouldy” (“The Other Gods”) and “inconceivably old” (“The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath”).
Lovecraft only mentions these books in “The Other Gods” and “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath,” both times in conjunction with the Pnakotic Manuscripts.
Robert E. Howard first introduced Nameless Cults through his story “The Children of the Night” (1931). The next year, Lovecraft came up with a German title for it, since von Junzt would have written the original in German. This title, Ungenennte Heidenthume, was balked at by several of his correspondents. August Derleth came up with the title Unaussprechlichen Kulten, which stuck, despite the fact that this more literally means “Unpronounceable Cults”; Die Unaussprechlichen Kulten or Unaussprechliche Kulten would be more correct.
Although Lovecraft doesn’t mention this book any more than he does any of the others here, he does give its publication history in “Out of the Aeons”:
“...a glance at the hieroglyphs by any reader of von Junzt’s horrible Nameless Cults would have established a linkage of unmistakable significance. At this period, however, the readers of that monstrous blasphemy were exceedingly few; copies having been incredibly scarce in the interval between the suppression of the original Dusseldorf edition (1839) and of the Bridewell translation (1845) and the publication of the expurgated reprint by the Golden Goblin Press in 1909.”
As mentioned above, many of the books that Lovecraft mentioned were real. These include:
- Ars Magna et Ultima, Raymond Lully (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- The Story of Atlantis and The Lost Lemuria, W. Scott-Elliot (“The Call of Cthulhu”)
- The Book of Dzyan (“The Diary of Alonzo Typer” and “The Haunter of the Dark”)
- The Book of Thoth (“Through the Gates of the Silver Key”)
- Clavis Alchemiae, Robert Fludd (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Cryptomenysis Patefacta, John Falconer (“The Dunwich Horror”)
- The Daemonolatreia, Remigius (“The Festival” and “The Dunwich Horror”)
- De Furtivis Literarum Notis, Giovanni Battista della Porta (“The Dunwich Horror”)
- The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer (“The Call of Cthulhu”)
- De Lapide Philosophico, Johannes Trithemius (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Key of Wisdom, Artephius (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Kryptographik, Johann Ludwig Kluber (“The Dunwich Horror”)
- Liber Investigationis, Geber (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Magnalia Christi Americana, Cotton Mather (“The Picture in the House,” “The Unnamable,” “Pickman’s Model,” and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Poligraphia, Johannes Trithemius (“The Dunwich Horror”)
- Saducismus Triumphatus, Joseph Glanvil (“The Festival”)
- Thesaurus Chemicus, Roger Bacon (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- Traicte des Chifferes ou Secretes d’Escrire, Blaise de Vigenere (“The Dunwich Horror”)
- Turba Philosophorum, Guglielmo Grataroli (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)
- The Witch-Cult in Western Europe, Dr. Margaret Murray (“The Horror at Red Hook” and “The Call of Cthulhu”)
- Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather (“Pickman’s Model”)
- The Zohar (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward)