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Some Notes on the "Necronomicon©"

By Karl Eckler

Should you find employment at a Public or Academic library, then eventually it is only a matter of time before someone will ask you the following question:

"Say, do you guys have a copy of the Necronomicon?"

They might be joking, they might be serious, or they might be looking for any number of things that are not an authentic book of blasphemous lore penned by the "Mad Arab1" Abdul Alhazred2.

The reference interview in such a case is very important, for items called The Necronomicon are found in many different areas of endeavor. One of these being the justly famous art book by H.R. Geiger and its sequel Necronomicon II. The UW library system does not own a copy of either of these works, but does hold a video relating to Geiger’s work over the same timeframe.

Another possibility is the collection of fiction essays sold under the title "The Necronomicon" by Chaosium. Or Necronomicon: the best weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft by Gollancz.

If however, they insist on stating that it is in fact a historical book, the "History of the Necronomicon" prepared by its creator, H.P. Lovecraft (HPL) may be of some assistance to you. It might be that the patron is conducting historical research, in which case the Lovecraft Collection at Brown University’s "marble John Hay Library3" may be of use. The History is accession number A18753, and available to the public for viewing with prior reservation.

Lovecraft had a great view of the John Hay Library from his room at 66 College Street

If instead the patron’s researches stretch into the esoteric, insisting that manuscript copies of the work predate 1927, then nod and do a bit more research:

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds the Voynich Manuscript. This manuscript book was written sometime in the 15th or 16th century, and some scholars believe that it constitutes a portion of a larger book of esoterica that may have inspired HPL’s Necronomicon. Even more writers--starting with Colin Wilson--believe that it would make good story. In either case, pointing out that the book contains, "continuous pages of text, possibly recipes, with star-like flowers marking each entry in the margins4" may be of interest to the questioner. They might also be interested in knowing that no one has yet discovered how to read that text.

Should the client state that they are interested in the book in conjunction to something called "Chaos Magic" Then you might point them towards the following resources:

These books (arranged in chronological order of "first modern printing") constitute the high points of a tradition starting with L. Sprague De Camp’s 1973 attempt to sell books by pretending to reproduce a "real" book of eldritch/magical lore. Because Chaos Magic uses belief in anything, even belief in the fictional, in it's "workings" the Necronomicon was naturally adapted to their needs. For this and other reasons, we can expect to see a good deal more of, to collect a larger number and to field a greater number of questions about these books. For, after all,

"That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die."
--H.P. Lovecraft, "The Nameless City" (1921).

1 This is so not my racial epithet. It is H.P. Lovecraft's.
2 This name makes no sense in Arabic. This is because it's what Lovecraft called himself when he was playing "Arabian Nights" at the age of 8. Cut the kid some slack... he was 8!
3 HPL, "The Haunter of the Dark"
4 Voynich Manuscript, Beinecke Library Digital Collections

June 21, 2011
Vol. XV Issue 3

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