Allow me to point your attention towards Arkham, Massachusetts, home of the esteemed Miskatonic University. In this New England village, and nearby towns Dunwich, Kingsport and Innsmouth, we can turn our gaze over the gentle rolling hills and quiet old farms and see no trace of the ever-unfolding, gibbering horrors that originated in these thankfully fictitious places, fresh from the mind of Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
H.P. Lovecraft, father of Cthulhu, master of horror!
The American author’s tales of Cthulhu were first published in Weird Tales in 1928, but many of his other stories had been published in various periodicals since 1917. Although he achieved a small bit of cult fame among his peers and readers during his lifetime, Lovecraft’s impact lives on through his influence on modern horror, and through the publishing house named after his infamous town of Arkham.
August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, fans and peers who corresponded with Lovecraft regularly, founded Arkham House in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1939, just after the Lovecraft’s death. They wished to preserve Lovecraft’s works in well-bound, hardcover form. Their first published book was The Outsider and Others by Lovecraft. Over the years, they also published many of Lovecraft’s abridged correspondence to friends and family.
I couldn’t live a week without a private library – indeed, I’d part with all my furniture and squat and sleep on the floor before I’d let go of the 1500 or so books I possess.
–H. P. Lovecraft
Arkham House also published horror and weird fiction by several other authors, including the first edition of Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury. Other authors of note are E. Hoffman Price, Nelson Bond, Robert Bloch (author of Psycho), Frank Belknap Long, Fritz Leiber, Lord Dunsany, and Robert E. Howard. Authors like Ramsey Campbell, Brian Lumley, and August Derleth continued some of the Lovecraft mythos under the Arkham House imprint. They also used amazing illustrations from Ronald Clyne, Frank Utpatel, Richard Taylor and Hannes Bok.
Despite the talented authors whose stories they printed, the exceptional quality of the printing and binding, and the risk they undertook in printing some of the earliest science fiction as hardcover novels, Arkham House was not fiscally sound. Wandrei resigned his part in the business after he was drafted for World War II. Derleth propped up the business with his personal earnings throughout the years, and continued to oversee publication of science fiction, fantasy, and macabre literature until his death in 1971.
After changing hands many times, Arkham House is still publishing today. Wandrei returned for a while after the death of Derleth to oversee the publishing house, but James Turner and the Derleth’s children have taken turns heading up the company. Over 200 books have been published and more than 60 years have gone by since the inception of Arkham House, and its impact on the world of fantasy and horror fiction, as well as the longevity of Lovecraft’s works, cannot be underestimated.
The cover art of most Arkham House books is just unique and terrifying as the words contained within! Peruse and enjoy some particularly amazing covers on our Arkham House Pinterest board.
Some of our favorites are listed below:
To Learn More:
Correction & Clarification:
Oct. 31 – S.T. Joshi was incorrectly listed as being a managing editor of Arkham House. While a prolific author and critic, he was not a head of the publishing house.
Oct. 31 – The Call of Cthulhu was first published in Weird Tales in 1928, but it was not Lovecraft’s first published work.
Amber is the marketing coordinator at Biblio. A lifelong love of the written word brought her to Biblio and she happily spends her days talking about books and delving into the wide world of antiquarian books.