History of the Necronomicon (1992)

My first encounter with the zine/chapbook/booklet format was with these cool booklets you could get at Revolutionary War sites in New Jersey, which would have short stories or historical essays in them, perhaps accompanied with some art or a map (gee, if that doesn’t sound like an RPG zine, dang). My second encounter was a near simultaneous one-two punch — Pagan Publishing’s Unspeakable Oath, and Necronomicon Press’ gorgeous line of weird fiction chapbooks. Looking at the latter today (and you’ll see all of the former on weekends later this year).

History of the Necronomicon (originally 1980, this is the sixth printing from 1992) is, appropriately, a pretty typical example of the products. This is a facsimile of a short run of booklets produced as a memorial for Lovecraft in 1938, reproducing his bibliographic essay on his most notorious grimoire. S. T. Joshi has a brief historical afterword. The whole thing is printed on heavy stock, with a bright yellow cover adorned with black and white art by Jason Eckhardt (very into the scorpion scarf). A handsome package containing an entertaining piece of writing by a weird fiction author that was otherwise difficult to gain access to (I don’t know of any other places the essay was collected before Arkham House’s Miscellaneous Writings in 1995).

The essay itself is interesting, a great example of how Lovecraft imbued the Necronomicon with a beguiling authenticity through faux-academic writing and reference (it also is a curiously presentation of Lovecraft’s default xenophobia mixed with an abiding love for the Thousand and One Nights, both of which clearly inform the text). The book’s Arabic title is Al Azif supposedly takes its name from the buzzing sound of locusts that was associated with Djinn and whispered revelation (and hence the locusts in Eckhardt’s art). The book of the buzzing. Love that.

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