Necronomicon

Necronomicon

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The Necronomicon is a fictional
Fictional book
A fictional book is a book that sometimes provides the basis of the plot of a story, a common thread in a series of books, or the works of a particular writer or canon of work. A fictional book may also be used as a mode of conceit to illustrate a story within a story.-Prominent fictional...

 grimoire
Grimoire
A grimoire is a textbook of magic. Such books typically include instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms and divination and also how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels, spirits, and demons...

 appearing in the stories by horror
Horror fiction
Horror fiction also Horror fantasy is a philosophy of literature, which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten its readers, inducing feelings of horror and terror. It creates an eerie atmosphere. Horror can be either supernatural or non-supernatural...

 writer H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft --often credited as H.P. Lovecraft — was an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as weird fiction....

 and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's 1924
1924 in literature
The year 1924 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Ford Madox Ford publishes the first book of a four-volume work titled Parade's End published between 1924 and 1928.-New books:*Michael Arlen - The Green Hat...

 short story "The Hound
The Hound
This page deals with the H. P. Lovecraft short story. For the character from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, see Sandor Clegane"The Hound" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in September 1922 and published in the February 1924 issue of Weird Tales...

", written in 1922, though its purported author, the "Mad Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

" Abdul Alhazred
Abdul Alhazred
Abdul Alhazred is a fictional character created by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He is the so-called "Mad Arab" credited with authoring the imaginary book Kitab al-Azif , and as such an integral part of Cthulhu Mythos lore....

, had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's "The Nameless City
The Nameless City
"The Nameless City" is a horror story written by H. P. Lovecraft in January 1921 and first published in the November 1921 issue of the amateur press journal The Wolverine...

". Among other things, the work contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and the means for summoning them.

Other authors such as August Derleth
August Derleth
August William Derleth was an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the writings of H. P...

 and Clark Ashton Smith
Clark Ashton Smith
Clark Ashton Smith was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. He achieved early local recognition, largely through the enthusiasm of George Sterling, for traditional verse in the vein of Swinburne...

 also cited it in their works; Lovecraft approved, believing such common allusions built up "a background of evil verisimilitude
Verisimilitude
Verisimilitude is the quality of realism in something .-Competing ideas:The problem of verisimilitude is the problem of articulating what it takes for one false theory to be closer to the truth than another false theory...

." Many readers have believed it to be a real work, with booksellers and librarians receiving many requests for it; pranksters have listed it in rare book catalogues, and a student smuggled a card for it into the Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 Library's card catalog.

Capitalizing on the notoriety of the fictional volume, real-life publishers have printed many books entitled Necronomicon since Lovecraft's death.

Origin


How Lovecraft conceived the name "Necronomicon" is not clear — Lovecraft said that the title came to him in a dream. Although some have suggested that Lovecraft was influenced primarily by Robert W. Chambers
Robert W. Chambers
Robert William Chambers was an American artist and writer.-Biography:He was born in Brooklyn, New York, to William P. Chambers , a famous lawyer, and Caroline Chambers , a direct descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Providence, Rhode Island...

' collection of short stories The King in Yellow
The King in Yellow
The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories written by Robert W. Chambers and published in 1895. The stories could be categorized as early horror fiction or Victorian Gothic fiction, but the work also touches on mythology, fantasy, mystery, science fiction and romance...

, which centers on a mysterious and disturbing play in book form, Lovecraft is not believed to have read that work until 1927.

Donald R. Burleson has argued that the idea for the book was derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...

, though Lovecraft himself noted that "mouldy hidden manuscripts" were one of the stock features of Gothic literature.

Lovecraft wrote that the title, as translated from the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, meant "an image of the law of the dead": nekros - νεκρός ("dead"), nomos - νόμος ("law"), eikon - εικών ("image"). Robert M. Price
Robert M. Price
Robert McNair Price is an American theologian and writer. He teaches philosophy and religion at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, is professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, and the author of a number of books on theology and the historicity of Jesus, including...

 notes that the title has been variously translated by others as "Book of the names of the dead", "Book of the laws of the dead", "Book of dead names" and "Knower of the laws of the dead". S. T. Joshi
S. T. Joshi
Sunand Tryambak Joshi — known as S. T. Joshi — is an award-winning Indian American literary critic, novelist, and a leading figure in the study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other authors of weird and fantastic fiction...

 states that Lovecraft's own etymology is "almost entirely unsound. The last portion of it is particularly erroneous, since -ikon is nothing more than a neuter adjectival suffix and has nothing to do with eikõn (image)." Joshi translates the title as "Book considering (or classifying) the dead."

Lovecraft was often asked about the veracity of the Necronomicon, and always answered that it was completely his invention. In a letter to Willis Conover
Willis Conover
Willis Clark Conover, Jr. was a jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years. He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television. By arranging concerts where people of all races were welcome, he is credited with...

, Lovecraft elaborated upon his typical answer:
Now about the "terrible and forbidden books” — I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch
Robert Bloch
Robert Albert Bloch was a prolific American writer, primarily of crime, horror and science fiction. He is best known as the writer of Psycho, the basis for the film of the same name by Alfred Hitchcock...

 devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis
De Vermis Mysteriis
De Vermis Mysteriis, or Mysteries of the Worm, is a fictional grimoire created by Robert Bloch and incorporated by H. P. Lovecraft into the lore of the Cthulhu Mythos.-Creation:...

, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith
Clark Ashton Smith
Clark Ashton Smith was a self-educated American poet, sculptor, painter and author of fantasy, horror and science fiction short stories. He achieved early local recognition, largely through the enthusiasm of George Sterling, for traditional verse in the vein of Swinburne...

's. Robert E. Howard
Robert E. Howard
Robert Ervin Howard was an American author who wrote pulp fiction in a diverse range of genres. Best known for his character Conan the Barbarian, he is regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre....

 is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten
Unaussprechlichen Kulten
Unaussprechlichen Kulten is a fictional work of arcane literature in the Cthulhu Mythos. The book first appeared in Robert E. Howard's short stories "The Children of the Night" and "The Black Stone" as Nameless Cults. Like the Necronomicon, it was later mentioned in several stories by H. P...

.... As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes — in all truth they don’t amount to much. That is why it’s more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon.


Reinforcing the book's fictionalization, the name of the book's supposed author, Abdul Alhazred, is not even a grammatically correct Arabic name
Arabic name
Long ago, Arabic names were based on a long naming system; most Arabs did not simply have given/middle/family names, but a full chain of names. This system was in use throughout the Arab world. Today however, Arabic names are similar in structure to those of Modern and Western names...

. The name "Abdul" simply means "the worshiper/slave of...". Standing alone, it would make no sense, as Alhazred is not a last name in the Western sense, but a reference to a person's place of birth.

Fictional history


In 1927, Lovecraft wrote a brief pseudo-history of the Necronomicon that was published in 1938, after his death, as A History of The Necronomicon. This work allowed subsequent fiction writers to remain consistent with Lovecraft's treatment of the Necronomicon. According to this account, the book was originally called Al Azif, an Arabic word that Lovecraft defined as "that nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of demons" (one Arabic/English dictionary translates `Azīf as "whistling (of the wind); weird sound or noise".)

In the History, Alhazred is said to have been a "half-crazed Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

" who worshipped the Lovecraftian entities Yog-Sothoth
Yog-Sothoth
Yog-Sothoth is a cosmic entity of the fictional Cthulhu Mythos and the Dream Cycle of H. P. Lovecraft. Yog-Sothoth's name was first mentioned in his novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward...

 and Cthulhu
Cthulhu
Cthulhu is a fictional character that first appeared in the short story "The Call of Cthulhu", published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1928. The character was created by writer H. P...

. He is described as being from Sanaa
Sana'a
-Districts:*Al Wahdah District*As Sabain District*Assafi'yah District*At Tahrir District*Ath'thaorah District*Az'zal District*Bani Al Harith District*Ma'ain District*Old City District*Shu'aub District-Old City:...

 in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

, and as visiting the ruins of Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

, the "subterranean secrets" of Memphis
Memphis, Egypt
Memphis was the ancient capital of Aneb-Hetch, the first nome of Lower Egypt. Its ruins are located near the town of Helwan, south of Cairo.According to legend related by Manetho, the city was founded by the pharaoh Menes around 3000 BC. Capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom, it remained an...

 and the Empty Quarter
Empty Quarter
The Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter is one of the largest sand deserts in the world, encompassing most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula, including most of Saudi Arabia and areas of Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The desert covers some The Rub' al Khali or Empty Quarter...

 of Arabia (where he discovered the "nameless city
The Nameless City
"The Nameless City" is a horror story written by H. P. Lovecraft in January 1921 and first published in the November 1921 issue of the amateur press journal The Wolverine...

" below Irem
Iram of the Pillars
Iram of the Pillars , also called Aram, Iram, Irum, Irem, Erum, Wabar, Ubar, or the City of a Thousand Pillars, is a lost city on the Arabian Peninsula.-Introduction:Ubar, a name of a region or a name of a people, was mentioned in ancient records, and was spoken of in folk...

). In his last years, he lived in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, where he wrote Al Azif before his sudden and mysterious death in 738.

In subsequent years, Lovecraft wrote, the Azif "gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age." In 950, it was translated into Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and given the title Necronomicon by Theodorus Philetas, a fictional scholar from Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. This version "impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts" before being "suppressed and burnt" in 1050 by Patriarch Michael
Michael I Cerularius
Michael I Cerularius , also known as Michael Keroularios or Patriarch Michael I, was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople from 1043 to 1059.-Biography:...

 (an historical figure who died in 1059).

After this attempted suppression, the work was "only heard of furtively" until it was translated from Greek into Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 by Olaus Wormius
Ole Worm
Ole Worm , who often went by the Latinized form of his name Olaus Wormius, was a Danish physician and antiquary.-Life:...

. (Lovecraft gives the date of this edition as 1228, though the real-life Danish scholar Olaus Wormius lived from 1588 to 1624.) Both the Latin and Greek text, the History relates, were banned by Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX
Pope Gregory IX, born Ugolino di Conti, was pope from March 19, 1227 to August 22, 1241.The successor of Pope Honorius III , he fully inherited the traditions of Pope Gregory VII and of his uncle Pope Innocent III , and zealously continued their policy of Papal supremacy.-Early life:Ugolino was...

 in 1232, though Latin editions were apparently published in 15th century Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and 17th century Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. A Greek edition was printed in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in the first half of the 16th century.

The Elizabethan
Elizabethan era
The Elizabethan era was the epoch in English history of Queen Elizabeth I's reign . Historians often depict it as the golden age in English history...

 magician John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

 (1527-c. 1609) allegedly translated the book — presumably into English — but Lovecraft wrote that this version was never printed and only fragments survive. (The connection between Dee and the Necronomicon was suggested by Lovecraft's friend Frank Belknap Long
Frank Belknap Long
Frank Belknap Long was a prolific American writer of horror fiction, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, gothic romance, comic books, and non-fiction. Though his writing career spanned seven decades, he is best known for his horror and science fiction short stories, including early contributions to...

.)

According to Lovecraft, the Arabic version of Al Azif had already disappeared by the time the Greek version was banned in 1050, though he cites "a vague account of a secret copy appearing in San Francisco during the current [20th] century" that "later perished in fire". The Greek version, he writes, has not been reported "since the burning of a certain Salem
Salem, Massachusetts
Salem is a city in Essex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,407 at the 2000 census. It and Lawrence are the county seats of Essex County...

 man's library in 1692" (an apparent reference to the Salem witch trials
Salem witch trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in the counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex in colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693...

). (In the story The Diary of Alonzo Typer, the character Alonzo Typer finds a Greek copy.)

Appearance and contents


The Necronomicon is mentioned in a number of Lovecraft's short stories and in his novellas At the Mountains of Madness
At the Mountains of Madness
At the Mountains of Madness is a novella by horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its length. It was originally serialized in the February, March and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories...

and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is a short novel by H. P. Lovecraft, written in early 1927, but not published during the author's liftetime...

. However, despite frequent references to the book, Lovecraft was very sparing of details about its appearance and contents. He once wrote that "if anyone were to try to write the Necronomicon, it would disappoint all those who have shuddered at cryptic references to it."

In "The Nameless City" (1921
1921 in literature
The year 1921 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-New books:*Edgar Rice Burroughs – Tarzan the Terrible*James Branch Cabell – Figures of Earth*Hall Caine – The Master of Man*Willa Cather – Alexander's Bridge...

), a rhyming couplet
Couplet
A couplet is a pair of lines of meter in poetry. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter.While traditionally couplets rhyme, not all do. A poem may use white space to mark out couplets if they do not rhyme. Couplets with a meter of iambic pentameter are called heroic...

 that appears at two points in the story is ascribed to Abdul Alhazred:
That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.
The same couplet appears in "The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu
The Call of Cthulhu is a short story by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. Written in the summer of 1926, it was first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, in February 1928.-Inspiration:...

" (1928
1928 in literature
The year 1928 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Ford Madox Ford publishes Last Post. It is the final book of a four-volume work titled Parade's End published between 1924 and 1928....

), where it is identified as a quotation from the Necronomicon. This "much-discussed" couplet, as Lovecraft calls it in the latter story, has also been quoted in works by other authors, including Brian Lumley
Brian Lumley
Brian Lumley is an English horror fiction writer.Born in County Durham, he joined the British Army's Royal Military Police and wrote stories in his spare time before retiring with the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1 in 1980 and becoming a professional writer.He added to H. P...

's The Burrowers Beneath, which adds a long paragraph preceding the couplet.

In his story, "History of the Necronomicon
History of the Necronomicon
"History of the Necronomicon" is a short story written by H. P. Lovecraft in 1927, and published in 1938. It describes the fictional book the Necronomicon, a now-famous element used in several of his stories....

", Lovecraft states that it is rumored that artist R.U. Pickman (from his story Pickman's Model
Pickman's Model
"Pickman's Model" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in September 1926 and first published in the October 1927 issue of Weird Tales...

) owned a Greek translation of the text, but it vanished along with the artist in early 1926.

The Necronomicon is undoubtedly a substantial text, as indicated by its description in The Dunwich Horror
The Dunwich Horror
"The Dunwich Horror" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft. Written in 1928, it was first published in the April 1929 issue of Weird Tales . It takes place in Dunwich, a fictional town in Massachusetts...

(1929
1929 in literature
The year 1929 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*Candide by Voltaire is declared obscene by the United States Customs and seized in 1930....

). In the story, Wilbur Whateley visits Miskatonic University
Miskatonic University
Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham; a fictitious town which is said to exist in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River . After first appearing in the H. P...

's library to consult the "unabridged" version of the Necronomicon for a spell that would have appeared on the 751st page of his own inherited, but defective, Dee edition.

The Necronomicons appearance and physical dimensions are not clearly stated in Lovecraft's work. Other than the obvious black letter editions, it is commonly portrayed as bound in leather of various types and having metal clasps. Moreover, editions are sometimes disguised. In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, for example, John Merrit pulls down a book labelled Qanoon-e-Islam from Joseph Curwen’s bookshelf and discovers to his disquiet that it is actually the Necronomicon.

Many commercially available versions of the book fail to include any of the contents that Lovecraft describes. The Simon
Necronomicon
Simon Necronomicon
The Simon Necronomicon is written by an unknown author, but is introduced by a man identified only as "Simon". Stories presented are a blend of Mesopotamian myths, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian and a storyline of unknown authenticity about a man known as the "Mad Arab."The book was released in...

 in particular has been criticized for this.

Locations


According to Lovecraft's "History of the
Necronomicon", copies of the original Necronomicon were held by only five institutions worldwide:
  • The British Museum
    British Museum
    The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

  • The Bibliothèque nationale de France
    Bibliothèque nationale de France
    The is the National Library of France, located in Paris. It is intended to be the repository of all that is published in France. The current president of the library is Bruno Racine.-History:...

  • Widener Library
    Widener Library
    The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, commonly known as Widener Library, is the primary building of the library system of Harvard University. Located on the south side of Harvard Yard directly across from Memorial Church, Widener serves as the centerpiece of the 15.6 million-volume Harvard...

     of Harvard University
    Harvard University
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

     in Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

  • The University of Buenos Aires
  • The library of the fictional Miskatonic University
    Miskatonic University
    Miskatonic University is a fictional university located in Arkham; a fictitious town which is said to exist in Essex County, Massachusetts. It is named after the Miskatonic River . After first appearing in the H. P...

     in the also fictitious Arkham
    Arkham
    Arkham is a fictional city in Massachusetts, part of the Lovecraft Country setting created by H. P. Lovecraft and is featured in many of his stories, as well as those of other Cthulhu Mythos writers....

    , Massachusetts
    Massachusetts
    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...



The last institution holds the Latin translation by Olaus Wormius, printed in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in the 17th century.

Other copies, Lovecraft wrote, were kept by private individuals. Joseph Curwen, as noted, had a copy in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1941). A version is held in Kingsport
Kingsport (Lovecraft)
Kingsport is a fictional town in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft. The town first appeared in Lovecraft's short story "The Terrible Old Man"...

 in "The Festival
The Festival (short story)
"The Festival" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft written in October 1923 and published in the January 1925 issue of Weird Tales. It is considered to be one of the first of his Cthulhu Mythos stories.-Inspiration:...

" (1925
1925 in literature
The year 1925 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* April: F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway meet in the Dingo Bar on rue Delambre, in the Montparnasse Quarter of Paris, France shortly after the publication of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and shortly before...

). The provenance
Provenance
Provenance, from the French provenir, "to come from", refers to the chronology of the ownership or location of an historical object. The term was originally mostly used for works of art, but is now used in similar senses in a wide range of fields, including science and computing...

 of the copy read by the narrator of "The Nameless City" is unknown; a version is read by the protagonist in "The Hound" (1924
1924 in literature
The year 1924 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* Ford Madox Ford publishes the first book of a four-volume work titled Parade's End published between 1924 and 1928.-New books:*Michael Arlen - The Green Hat...

).

Hoaxes and alleged translations


Although Lovecraft insisted that the book was pure invention (and other writers invented passages from the book for their own works), there are accounts of some people actually believing the Necronomicon to be a real book. Lovecraft himself sometimes received letters from fans inquiring about the Necronomicon's authenticity. Pranksters
Practical joke
A practical joke is a mischievous trick played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or...

 occasionally listed the
Necronomicon for sale in book store newsletters or inserted phony entries for the book in library card catalogues
Library catalog
A library catalog is a register of all bibliographic items found in a library or group of libraries, such as a network of libraries at several locations...

 (where it may be checked out to one 'A. Alhazred
Abdul Alhazred
Abdul Alhazred is a fictional character created by American horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. He is the so-called "Mad Arab" credited with authoring the imaginary book Kitab al-Azif , and as such an integral part of Cthulhu Mythos lore....

', ostensibly the book's author and original owner). The Widener Library at Harvard, which is supposed to have a copy of the "Necronomicon" according to Lovecraft's stories, has a catalog entry telling the seeker to "inquire at desk". While the stories surrounding the Necronomicon claim that it is an extremely powerful and dangerous book (one that would not be safe just sitting on a shelf, where anyone could read it), it is equally possible that the listing has a much more mundane purpose — several (equally fictional) versions of the book do exist, and (since books such as the Necronomicon are frequently stolen from the shelves) the entry may simply be an attempt to prevent theft.

Similarly, the university library of Tromsø
University of Tromsø
The University of Tromsø is the world's northernmost university. Located in the city of Tromsø, Norway, it was established in 1968, and opened in 1972. It is one of eight universities in Norway. The University of Tromsø is the largest research and educational institution in northern Norway...

, Norway, lists a translated version of the Necronomicon, attributed to Petrus de Dacia and published in 1994, although the document is listed as "unavailable".

In 1973, Owlswick Press issued an edition of the
Necronomicon written in an indecipherable, apparently fictional language known as "Duriac". This was a limited edition of 348. The book contains a brief introduction by L. Sprague de Camp
L. Sprague de Camp
Lyon Sprague de Camp was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors...

.

The line between fact and fiction was further blurred in the late 1970s when a book purporting to be a translation of the "real Necronomicon" was published. This book, by the pseudonymous "Simon," had little connection to the fictional Lovecraft Mythos but instead was based on Sumerian mythology. It was later dubbed the "Simon Necronomicon
Simon Necronomicon
The Simon Necronomicon is written by an unknown author, but is introduced by a man identified only as "Simon". Stories presented are a blend of Mesopotamian myths, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian and a storyline of unknown authenticity about a man known as the "Mad Arab."The book was released in...

". Going into trade paperback in 1980 it has never been out of print and has sold 800,000 copies by 2006 making it the most popular Necronomicon to date. Despite its contents, the book's marketing focused heavily on the Lovecraft connection and made sensational claims for the book's magical power. The blurb states it was "potentially, the most dangerous Black Book known to the Western World". Three additional volumes have since been published — The Necronomicon Spellbook, a book of pathworkings with the 50 names of Marduk
Marduk
Marduk was the Babylonian name of a late-generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and patron deity of the city of Babylon, who, when Babylon became the political center of the Euphrates valley in the time of Hammurabi , started to...

;
Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon, a history of the book itself and of the late 1970s New York occult scene; and The Gates Of The Necronomicon, instructions on pathworking with the Simon Necronomicon.

A hoax version of the
Necronomicon, edited by George Hay, appeared in 1978
1978 in literature
The year 1978 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*The Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, a humorous award given annually to books with unusual titles is created. The first winner was Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude...

 and included an introduction by the paranormal researcher and writer Colin Wilson
Colin Wilson
Colin Henry Wilson is a prolific English writer who first came to prominence as a philosopher and novelist. Wilson has since written widely on true crime, mysticism and other topics. He prefers calling his philosophy new existentialism or phenomenological existentialism.- Early biography:Born and...

. David Langford
David Langford
David Rowland Langford is a British author, editor and critic, largely active within the science fiction field. He publishes the science fiction fanzine and newsletter Ansible.-Personal background:...

 described how the book was prepared from a computer analysis of a discovered "cipher text" by Dr. John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

. The resulting "translation" was in fact written by occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

ist Robert Turner, but it was far truer to the Lovecraftian version than the Simon text and even incorporated quotations from Lovecraft's stories in its passages. Wilson also wrote a story, "The Return of the Lloigor", in which the Voynich manuscript
Voynich manuscript
The Voynich manuscript, described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript", is a work which dates to the early 15th century, possibly from northern Italy. It is named after the book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912....

 turns out to be a copy of the Necronomicon.

With the success of the Simon Necronomicon the controversy surrounding the actual existence of the Necronomicon was such that a detailed book,
The Necronomicon Files, was published in 1998 attempting to prove once and for all the book was pure fiction. It covered the well-known Necronomicons in depth, especially the Simon one, along with a number of more obscure ones. It was reprinted and expanded in 2003.

In 2004,
Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, by occultist Donald Tyson, was published by Llewellyn Worldwide
Llewellyn Worldwide
Llewellyn Worldwide is a New Age publisher, currently based in Woodbury, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. Llewellyn's mission is to "serve the trade and consumers worldwide with options and tools for exploring new worlds of mind & spirit, thereby aiding in the quests of expanded human potential,...

. The Tyson Necronomicon is generally thought to be closer to Lovecraft's vision than other published versions. Donald Tyson has clearly stated that the
Necronomicon is fictional, but that has not prevented his book from being the center of some controversy. Tyson has since published Alhazred
Alhazred (novel)
Alhazred is a 2006 novel by Cthulhu Mythos writer Donald Tyson. The book is a follow-up to Tyson's 2004 "translation" of the Necronomicon...

, a novelization of the life of the Necronomicons author.

Historical "Books of the Dead", such as the ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

ian Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead is the modern name of an ancient Egyptian funerary text, used from the beginning of the New Kingdom to around 50 BC. The original Egyptian name for the text, transliterated rw nw prt m hrw is translated as "Book of Coming Forth by Day". Another translation would be "Book of...

or the Tibet
Tibet
Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people...

an Bardo Thodol
Bardo Thodol
The Liberation Through Hearing During The Intermediate State , sometimes translated as Liberation Through Hearing or Bardo Thodol is a funerary text...

, are sometimes described as "real Necronomicons." They should not be confused with the Lovecraft Necronomicon, since their contents are meant to be read to and remembered by the dead, rather than to be used by the living to summon the dead. Lovecraft may have been inspired by these books.

The Astral Necronomicon


Kenneth Grant
Kenneth Grant
Kenneth Grant was a British occultist, novelist, and poet, who with his partner, the artist Steffi Grant, headed the magical order previously known as the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis but which is now referred to as the Typhonian Order.-Occult background:Grant's occult experiences began in 1939...

, the British occultist, disciple of Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...

, and head of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis suggested in his book The Magical Revival (1972) that there was an unconscious connection between Crowley and Lovecraft. He thought they both drew on the same occult forces; Crowley via his magic and Lovecraft through the dreams which inspired his stories and the Necronomicon. Grant claimed that the Necronomicon existed as an astral
Astral projection
Astral projection is an interpretation of out-of-body experience that assumes the existence of an "astral body" separate from the physical body and capable of traveling outside it...

 book as part of the Akashic records
Akashic Records
The akashic records is a term used in theosophy to describe a compendium of mystical knowledge encoded in a non-physical plane of existence. These records are described as containing all knowledge of human experience and the history of the cosmos...

 and could be accessed through ritual magic or in dreams. Grant's ideas on Lovecraft were featured heavily in the introduction to the Simon Necronomicon
Simon Necronomicon
The Simon Necronomicon is written by an unknown author, but is introduced by a man identified only as "Simon". Stories presented are a blend of Mesopotamian myths, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian and a storyline of unknown authenticity about a man known as the "Mad Arab."The book was released in...

 and also have been backed by Donald Tyson; but Lovecraft, a strict materialist, would likely have been outraged. Like any claim based purely on supernatural evidence, Grant's ideas cannot be proved or disproved and have added further confusion to the issue.

In popular culture



The Necronomicon makes minor appearances in many films and television shows and a few video games. For example, on April 12, 2011, television host Stephen Colbert
Stephen Colbert
Stephen Tyrone Colbert is an American political satirist, writer, comedian, television host, and actor. He is the host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report, a satirical news show in which Colbert portrays a caricatured version of conservative political pundits.Colbert originally studied to be an...

 launched a Twitter campaign against Senator Jon Kyl
Jon Kyl
Jon Llewellyn Kyl is the junior U.S. Senator from Arizona and the Senate Minority Whip, the second-highest position in the Republican Senate leadership. In 2010 he was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world for his persuasive role in the Senate.The son...

 after Kyl's office released a response to the fact that Kyl's testimony about Planned Parenthood was untrue by saying, "his remark was not intended to be a factual statement." Colbert went on to post ridiculous statements about Kyl (using #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement), one of which was, "The secret to Jon Kyl's success can be found on page 53 of the Necronomicon."

Commercially available versions

  • Al Azif: The Necronomicon by L. Sprague de Camp
    L. Sprague de Camp
    Lyon Sprague de Camp was an American author of science fiction and fantasy books, non-fiction and biography. In a writing career spanning 60 years, he wrote over 100 books, including novels and notable works of non-fiction, including biographies of other important fantasy authors...

     (1973, ISBN 1-58715-043-3)
  • Necronomicon
    Simon Necronomicon
    The Simon Necronomicon is written by an unknown author, but is introduced by a man identified only as "Simon". Stories presented are a blend of Mesopotamian myths, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian and a storyline of unknown authenticity about a man known as the "Mad Arab."The book was released in...

    by "Simon" (1980, ISBN 0-380-75192-5)
  • The Gates of the Necronomicon by "Simon" (2006, ISBN 0-06-089006-1)
  • H.R. Giger's Necronomicon
    Necronomicon (H. R. Giger)
    Necronomicon was the first major published compendium of images by Swiss artist H. R. Giger. Originally published in 1977, the book was given to director Ridley Scott during the pre-production of the film Alien, who then hired Giger to produce artwork and conceptual designs for the film.The book...

    by H.R. Giger (1991, ISBN 0-9623447-2-9)
  • Necronomicon II by H.R. Giger
  • Necronomicon: A Study in the Forbidden Magic of Lovecraft & the Great Mystery of Stargates (Greek edition, 2008) by George Ioannidis
  • The Necronomicon edited by George Hay (1993, ISBN 1-871438-16-0)
  • Necronomicon: The Wanderings Of Alhazred by Donald Tyson (2004, ISBN 0-7387-0627-2)
  • Necronomicon Plush Book by Toy vault (not an actual book, but rather a novelty collectible parodying the format of children's pop-up books).

See also

  • Cthulhu Mythos arcane literature
    Cthulhu Mythos arcane literature
    Many fictional works of arcane literature appear in the Cthulhu Mythos. The main literary purpose of these works is to explain how characters within the tales come by occult or esoteric knowledge that is unknown to the general populace. However, in some cases the works themselves serve as an...

  • Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture
    Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture
    This article provides a list of cultural references to the work of author H. P. Lovecraft. These references are collectively known as the Cthulhu Mythos. For works that are stylistically influenced by Lovecraft, see Lovecraftian horror.- Film :...

  • Anthropodermic bibliopegy
    Anthropodermic bibliopegy
    Anthropodermic bibliopegy is the practice of binding books in human skin. Though extremely uncommon in modern times, the technique dates back to at least the 17th century...

  • False document
    False document
    A false document is a literary technique employed to create verisimilitude in a work of fiction. By inventing and inserting documents that appear to be factual, an author tries to create a sense of authenticity beyond the normal and expected suspension of disbelief for a work of art...

  • Grimoire
    Grimoire
    A grimoire is a textbook of magic. Such books typically include instructions on how to create magical objects like talismans and amulets, how to perform magical spells, charms and divination and also how to summon or invoke supernatural entities such as angels, spirits, and demons...

  • Necronomicon Press
    Necronomicon Press
    Necronomicon Press is an American small press publishing house specialising in fiction, poetry and literary criticism relating to the horror and fantasy genres. It is run by Marc A. Michaud....

  • Simon Necronomicon
    Simon Necronomicon
    The Simon Necronomicon is written by an unknown author, but is introduced by a man identified only as "Simon". Stories presented are a blend of Mesopotamian myths, Akkadian, Babylonian and Assyrian and a storyline of unknown authenticity about a man known as the "Mad Arab."The book was released in...


Primary sources

Definitive version.
    • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
    • "The Statement of Randolph Carter" Definitive version.
    • "The Festival"
    • "The Hound"
    • "The Nameless City" Definitive version.
    • "The Dunwich Horror"

External links

  • "The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page", Everything You Never Wanted to Know about the Necronomicon (Al Azif) of the Mad Arab Abdul Alhazred but Weren't Afraid Enough to Know Better than to Ask!