[NB] Lovecraft’s Mentions of the Necronomicon

This is the first of two notebook posts containing Lovecraft’s mentions of the Necronomicon. While a few very minor mentions were excluded, most all of them should be included here. This is all quotation, no commentary; I’m saving that up for some lengthier posts.

(Let me just say how much I appreciate cthulhuchick.com‘s work to collect Lovecraft’s work; her digital collection of H. P. Lovecraft’s work made this much easier.)

Immediately upon beholding the amulet we knew that we must possess it….we saw that it was not wholly unfamiliar. Alien it indeed was to all art and literature which sane and balanced readers know, but we recognized it as the thing hinted of in the forbidden Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; the ghastly soul-symbol of the corpse-eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia. All too well did we trace the sinister lineaments described by the old Arab daemonologist; lineaments, he wrtoe, drawn from some obscure supernatural manifestation of the souls of those who vexed and gnawed at the dead….We read much in Alhazred’s Necronomicon about its properties, and about the relation of ghouls’ souls to the objects it symbolized; and were disturbed by what we read. Then terror came. (“The Hound”; 1922)

Pointing to a chair, table, and pile of books, the old man now left the room; and when I sat down to read I saw the books were hoary and mouldy, and that they included…worst of all, the umentionable Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, in Olaus Wormius’ forbidden Latin translations; a book which I had never seen, but of which I had heard monstrous things whispered….So I tried to read and soon became tremblingly  absorbed by something I found in that accursed Necronomicon; a thought and a legend too hideous for sanity or consciousness….The man who had brought me now squirmed to a point directly beside the hideous flame, and made stiff ceremonial motions to the semicircle he faced. At certain stage of the ritual they did groveling obeisance, especially when he held above his head that abhorrent Necronomicon he had taken with him….Then the old man made a signal to the half-seen flute-player in the darkenss, which player thereupon changed its feebel drone…precipitating as it did so a horror unthinkable and unexpected. At this horror I sank nearly to the lichened earth, transfixed with a dread not of this nor any world, but only of the mad spaced between the stars. (“The Festival”; 1923)

So matters went till that night when Williams brought home the infamous Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred….he had always wondered why men paled when they spoke of it. The old bookseller had told him that only five copies were known to have survived the shocked edicts of the priests and lawgivers against it and all of those were locked up with frightened care by custodians who had ventured to begin a reading of the hateful black-letter. But now, at last, he had not only found an accessible copy but had made it his own at a ludicrously low figure. It was at a Jew’s shop…and he almost fancied the gnarled old Levite smiled amidst tangles of beard as the great discover was made. The bulky leather cover with the brass clasp had been so prominently visible…some of the diagrams set in the vague Latin text excited the tensest and most disquieting recollections in his brain….he found the combination of black-letter and debased idiom too much for his powers as a linguist… (“The Descendent”; 1926)

Of the cult [of the Old Ones], he said that he thought the centre lay amid the pathless deserts of Arabia, where Irem, the City of Pillars, dreams hidden and untouched. It was not allied to the European witch-cult, and was virtually unknown beyond its members. No book had ever really hinted at, though the deathless Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as the chose, especially the much-discussed couplet: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, / And with strange aeons even death may die.”(The Call of Cthulhu; 1926)

Mediaeval Jews and Arabs were represented in profusion, and Mr. Merrirt turned pale when, upon taking down a fine volume conspicuously labelled as Qanoon-e-Islam, he found it was in truth the forbidden Necronomicon of the made Arab Abdul Alhazred, of which he had heard such monstrous things whispered some years previously after the exposure of the nameless rites at the strange little fishing village of Kingsport, in the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay.(The Case of Charles Dexter Ward; 1927)

Original title Al Azif—azif being the word used by Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) suppos’d to be the howling of daemons. Composed by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of Sanaá, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Ommiade caliphs, circa 700 A.D. He visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secrets of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia—the Roba el Khaliyeh or “Empty Space” of the ancients—and “Dahna” or “Crimson” desert of the modern Arabs, which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon (Al Azif) was written, and of his final death or disappearance (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th cent. biographer) to have been seized by an invisible monster in broad daylight and devoured horribly before a large number of fright-frozen witnesses. Of his madness many things are told. He claimed to have seen fabulous Irem, or City of Pillars, and to have found beneath the ruins of a certain nameless desert town the shocking annals and secrets of a race older than mankind. He was only an indifferent Moslem, worshipping unknown entities whom he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu. (“A History of the Necronomicon“; 1927; more material on its history in the full piece, linked)

Wilbur had with him the priceles but imperfect copy of Dr. Dee’s English version…upon receiving access to the Latin copy he at once began to collate the two texts with the aim of discovering a certain passage which would have come on the 751st page of his own defective volume…He was looking…for a kind of formula or incantation containing the frightful name Yog-sothoth, and it puzzled him to find discrepancies, duplications, and ambiguities which made the matter of determination far from easy….At first the syllables defiedall correlation with any speech of the earth, but toward the last there came some disjointed fragments evidently taken from the Necronomicon, that monstorous blasphemy… (“The Dunwich Horror”; 1928)

[Mentioned in passing, referring to passage prev excerpted] …Of the hieroglyphics on the surface I could discern very few, but one or two that I did see gave me rather a shock. Of course they might be fraudulent, for others besides myself had read the monstrous and abhorred Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred; but it nevertheless made me shiver to recognise certain ideographs which study had taught me to link with the most blood-curdling and blasphemous whispers of things that had had a kind of mad half-existence before the earth and the other inner worlds of the solar system were made. …I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewehre in the most hidesous of connexions — Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-sothoth, R’lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L’mur-Kathulos, Bran, and the Magnum Innominandum — and was drawn back through nameless aeons and inconceivable dimensions to worlds of elder, outer, entity at which the crazed author of the Necronomicon had only guessed in the vaguest way….They’ve been inside the earth, too…great worlds of unknown life down there; blue-litten K’n-yan, red-litten Yoth, and black, lightless N’kai. It’s from N’kai that frightful Tsothoggua came — you know, the amorphous, toad-like god-creature mentioned in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon…I started with loathing when told of the monstrous nuclear chaos beyond angled space which the Necronomicon had mercifully cloaked under tha name of Azathoth. (“The Whisperer in the Darkness”; 1930)

Something about the scene reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of the still stranger and more disturbing descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng which occur in the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred….Arrangement [of body] reminds one of certain monsters of primal myth, especially fabled Elder Things in Necronomicon…Dyer and Pabodie have read Necronomicon and seen Clark Ashton Smith’s nightmare paintings based on text, and will understand when I speak of elder things supposed to have created all earth-life as jest or mistake….I felt sorry that I had ever read the abhored Necronomicon…They were the makers and enslavers of that life, and above all doubt the originals of the fiendish elder myths which things like the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon affrightedly hint about….These viscous masses were without doubt what Abdul Alhazred whispered about as the “shoggoths” in his frightful Necronomicon, though even that mad Arab had not hinted that any existed on earth except in the dreams of those who chewed a certain alkaloidal herb…this hideous upland must indeed be the fabled nightmare plateau of Leng which even the mad author of the Necronomicon was reluctant to discuss. (At the Mountains of Madness; 1931)

Possibly Gilman ought not to have studied so hard. Non-Euclidean calculus and quantum physics are enough to stretch any brain….Gilman had some terrible hints from the dreaded Necronomicon of Abdul alhazred….What kept him from going with her and Brown Jenkin and the other to the throne of Chaos where the thin flutes pipe mindlessly was the fact that he had seen the name “Azathoth” in the Necronomicon, and knew it stood for a primal evil too horrible for description….There was the immemorial figure of the deputy or messenger of hidden and terrible powers — the “Black Man” of the witch cult, and the “Nyarlathotep” of the Necronomicon….Unwholesome recollections of things in the Necronomicon and the Black Book welled up, and he found himself swaying to infandous rhythms said to pertain to the blackest ceremonies of the Sabbat and to have an origin outside the time and space we comprehend….She was intoning some croaking ritual in a language which Gilman could not understand, but which seemed like something guardedly quoted in the Necronomicon.  (“Dreams in the Witch-House”; 1932)

Other ugly reports concerned my intimacy with leaders of occultist groups, and scholars suspected of connection with nameless bands of abhorrent elder-world hierophants. These rumours, though never proved at the time, were doubtless stimulated by the known tenor of some of my reading – for the consulltation of rare books at libraries cannot be effected secretly. There is tangible proof – in the form of marginal notes – that I went minutely through such things as the Comte d’Erlette’s Cultes des Goules, Ludvig Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, the surviving fragments of the puzzling Book of Eibon, and the dreaded Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. Then, too, it is undeniable that a fresh and evil wave of underground cult activity set in about the time of my odd mutation….Thus the returning mind reached its own age with only the faintest and most fragmentary visions of what it had undergone since its seizure. All memories that could be eradicated were eradicated, so that in most cases only a dream-shadowed blank stretched back to the time of the first exchange. Some minds recalled more than others, and the chance joining of memories had at rare times brought hints of the forbidden past to future ages. There probably never was a time when groups or cults did not secretly cherish certain of these hints. In the Necronomicon the presence of such a cult among human beings was suggested – a cult that sometimes gave aid to minds voyaging down the aeons from the days of the Great Race. (The Shadow Out of Time; 1933)

In a rear vestry room beside the apse Blake found a rotting desk and ceiling-high shelves of mildewed, disintegrating books. Here for the first time he received a positive shock of objective horror, for the titles of those books told him much. They were the black, forbidden things which most sane people have never even heard of, or have heard of only in furtive, timorous whispers; the banned and dreaded repositories of equivocal secret and immemorial formulae which have trickled down the stream of time from the days of man’s youth, and the dim, fabulous days before man was. He had himself read many of them- a Latin version of the abhorred Necronomicon, the sinister Liber Ivonis, the infamous Cultes des Goules of Comte d’Erlette, the Unaussprechlichen Kulten of von Junzt, and old Ludvig Prinn’s hellish De Vermis Mysteriis. But there were others he had known merely by reputation or not at all- the Pnakotic Manuscripts, the Book of Dzyan, and a crumbling volume of wholly unidentifiable characters yet with certain symbols and diagrams shuddering recognizable to the occult student. Clearly, the lingering local rumours had not lied. This place had once been the seat of an evil older than mankind and wider than the known universe. (“The Haunter of the Dark”; 1935)

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