Lockdown Discoveries is an exhibition currently on display at Rare Books & Special Collections in Fisher Library. Due to COVID restrictions preventing access to some people, we’ve created a series of blog posts to ensure no-one misses out.
The Lockdown Discoveries exhibition presents highlights from the Ron Graham Science Fiction collection, handpicked and curated by the RBSC Cataloguing Project Team. This is Part 3, the final in our series of blogs about the exhibition. Read Part 1 or Part 2.
All paths lead back to Lovecraft
When H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937, his friends August Derleth and Donald Wandrei gathered Lovecraft’s best ‘weird fiction’ from pulp magazines into a memorial volume and tried to get it published. Publishers showed little interest, prompting the two to establish Arkham House in 1939, named after the fictional town in Lovecraft’s stories, and formed for the express purpose of publishing all of Lovecraft’s writings in hardcover.
Derleth wrote a number of stories based on fragments and notes left by Lovecraft, inventing the term ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ to describe the universe from the stories written by Lovecraft and other authors in his circle. Derleth’s style emphasised the struggle between good and evil, in contrast to Lovecraft’s depiction of an amoral universe. Arkham House continues to champion ‘weird fiction’ to this day.
Richard Taylor designed the covers for these volumes. An author in his own right, he is perhaps best known as a cartoonist for Playboy and the New Yorker, and his covers for Arkham House are among their best.
Shadow over Innsmouth was the only book Lovecraft published in his lifetime and he was far from happy about the print quality. He died a year later.
In his works, Lovecraft makes reference to The Necronomicon, a book written in Duriac script. While we don’t anticipate anyone visiting this exhibition being able to interpret the script, we have been advised not to show you the internal pages for your own safety. In the preface, L. Sprague de Camp writes:
“So, if any reader be so rash as to undertake the translation anew, let me urge that he have a care not to move his lips or mutter as he does so. We have all, I am sure, been annoyed in libraries by people who mumble as they read; but never before has this petty offense been punished by the fates that befell Doctors Babil, ibn-Yahya and Abdalmajid.”L. Sprague de Camp, in the preface to the Necronomicon
You have been warned.
Founded in Warren, Ohio in 1976 by artist, printer and publisher C.M. James, the Fantome Press specialised in small, fine letterpress reprints of fantasy, supernatural and horror poetry. Featuring works by various authors, including James himself, these booklets were typically limited to between 50 and 75 copies and often featured James’ beautiful woodcuts.
The woodcuts are made by carving out negative space from a surface, leaving only the lines and shapes desired to appear in the print.
Next, the remaining surface is coated with ink and the block is placed on a piece of paper. In this case, the print is created by placing pressure on the back of the block with a printing press, transferring the ink onto the page. The result is a unique print, that can never be duplicated exactly.
Reprinted here is one of the sonnet sequences from supernatural horror writer H. P. Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth. It tells the story of a person who obtains an ancient book of esoteric knowledge that allows one to travel to other planets and strange parts of the universe. In Antarktos, a ‘great bird’ tells the narrator of a mountain in a polar region that might hold an untold city buried underneath.
Coleridge was fascinated by the supernatural and metaphysics. He believed in the spirit as the true essence of a person, not the physical form. Here he is describing Sara Hutchinson, with whom he was infatuated, as she appeared to him in a dream. From his description it seems Coleridge believed he actually crossed a threshold while in the dream state and met with Sara’s spirit.
Moone’s ode to Howard Phillips Lovecraft is accompanied here by a portrait rendered by James. Lovecraft is commonly regarded as one of the most influential American horror writers of all time. He helped invent the genre of cosmic horror, which is the idea that the universe is an alien and dangerous place, incomprehensible to most sane people. His stories often feature protagonists who encounter horrible beings from outside our world, resulting in horror, insanity, and death.
Translated as Faces of Death, this is a collection of macabre figures and ominous landscapes rendered in woodcut by James.
How would you create an image of a ghost? It became a popular novelty in Victorian times. By using a blank page and an ink pen, one would sign their name along the middle of the page. The page was then folded so that the wet ink created a ghostly pattern.
The Ghosts of My Friends is an unusual autograph album arranged by Cecil Henland, an author who wrote a number of novelty books for children and founded the National Society of Day Nurseries in 1906.
The book was circulated to the owner’s friends to sign and complete, quite similar to the ‘Ad libs’ game. The signatures and ghosts which appear in this copy were collected between December 1926 and April 1931, and feature English surnames such as Ward, Gross, Cox and Thomas.
Not all science fiction authors write exclusively in the science fiction genre. Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was a famous American author who published in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction, winning many awards. Anderson won the Hugo Award seven times, the Nebula three times, the Prometheus Award four times, as well as receiving the Gandalf and SFWA Grand Master awards in 1998.
When he was a Guest of Honour at Boskone III in 1976 (organised by the New England Science Fiction Association), Anderson authored a collection of unusual writings. Published as Homebrew, the initial print run was 500 copies. The Graham collection has copy numbers 432 and 460, both signed by the author. Homebrew contains essays, poems, lyrics, articles, and the short story, House Rule.
Lockdown Discoveries was curated by the Rare Book & Special Collections Cataloguing Project Team: Vicky Chiu, Simon Cooper, Tonia Fossey, Chingmy Lam, Hiyori Ogawa, Phuong Pham, Liz Ray, Theresia Sandjaja, Dannielle Williams & some other guy.
The Lockdown Discoveries exhibition is located at:
Rare Books & Special Collections
Open: Monday to Friday, 11am to 3pm
Phone: +61 2 9351 2992