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Collecting Lovecraft, Part I

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

HP Lovecraft Ballantine Paperbacks-small

Last month I wrote about the first Arkham House books I ever bought, the beautiful 3-volume 1964 edition of the complete stories of H.P. Lovecraft. It was a splendid purchase, and a great introduction to the master. But, as I mentioned last month, collecting Lovecraft can be a lot of fun, and that initial purchase robbed me of the joy of tracking down his fiction in paperback. Until I finally decided to do it anyway.

Now, if you’re going to start collecting Lovecraft in paperback (and why wouldn’t you?) I recommend starting with the 1958 Avon paperback Cry Horror!, originally released as The Lurking Fear. That’s a terrific little book.

Of course, it’s just one book, and one that’s pretty easy to find, really. Amazon has copies starting at $7.95, and eBay has around a dozen copies, starting at $6.99. You want more of a challenge than that, don’t you?

The Lurking Fear HP Lovecraft-smallOf course you do. So let’s look at our other options.

Jove books published a handsome two-volume paperback set of Lovecraft’s finest stories in 1978: The Colour Out of Space and The Dunwich Horror and Others, with great covers by Rowena. Also pretty easy to find (I bought copies of both for about five bucks each),

But if you’re looking for a more comprehensive library of Lovecraft in paperback, I highly recommend the Ballantine paperbacks edited by August Derleth and published by arrangement with Arkham House in the early 70s.

There were a dozen volumes, including two books of Lovecraft pastiches by Derleth himself and a Lovecraft bio by Lin Carter. What I really like about these volumes — in addition to the striking cover art by Murray Tinkelman — is that they collected Lovecraft’s fiction thematically with each volume, including his Dream-Quest stories and his revisions.

These can be a tad more challenging to find in good condition, but still less expensive than buying new paperbacks, of course. I recently bought the seven volumes above on eBay — most in nearly brand new, unread condition — for less than six bucks each.

I’ll explore these volumes a little more in future posts. For now, I’ll leave you with a pic of the core set (above), and the cover of the very first Lovecraft paperback, The Lurking Fear, published by Avon in 1947 (click for bigger versions).

And remember: collect what you love and share your collection when you can. Collecting is a social hobby, when it’s done right.

If you enjoy looking at pics of vintage paperbacks (and who doesn’t?), our other articles on SF & fantasy series and collecting may interest you:

Collecting Lovecraft, Part I
Collecting Lovecraft, Part II
Collecting Lovecraft, Part III: The Arkham Hardcovers
Collecting Karl Edward Wagner
Collecting Robert A. Heinlein
Collecting Philip K. Dick
Collecting Arthur C. Clarke
Collecting Isaac Asimov
The Collections of Tanith Lee
The Novels of Tanith Lee: The Wars of Vis
James Bond in Outer Space: The Croyd Spacetime Maneuvres Novels of Ian Wallace
Clones, Deep Space Ships, and Surviving the Apocalypse on a Submarine: The Pocket Richard Cowper

See all of our Vintage Treasure posts here.

20 Comments »

  1. Love those covers! That was my first edition of Kadath (before it was lost in the flood; sigh). The replacement was the original BAF edition, but I really wouldn’t mind getting that one again as well. And the other covers are all brand new to me.

    Comment by Joe H. - August 16, 2014 3:04 pm

  2. My first Lovecraft book was the Lancer paperback, “The Color Out of Space and Other Stories,” with a hot pink border, surrounding a skeleton in a bridal gown and veil backlit in neon blue. I got it the year it was published: 1964 — and I still have it. I picked up most of the Beagle paperbacks as they were published, found a few of the Ballantine reprints a few years later, and had two of the three Arkham House hardcover collections before losing one to basement flooding. Several years ago, I started what is now an annual tradition for me: in October, I read nothing but horror fiction. Like some of the other folks who have posted here, I tend to have books for a few years before I get the chance (or inclination) to read them, and my Lovecraft collection is no exception. I guess it’s sort of like parceling out your fine wines over time, rather than consuming them all at once. Can’t wait for October 1…

    Comment by smitty59 - August 16, 2014 9:15 pm

  3. Good timing on your post, John. I’ve been in the mood to read some Lovecraft lately.

    BTW, were the books shown above published before or after the BAF Lovecraft volumes? (And yes, I will include those in the BAF series.)

    Comment by westkeith - August 16, 2014 9:50 pm

  4. > Love those covers! That was my first edition of Kadath (before it was lost in the flood; sigh).

    Joe — I agree. Murray Tinkelman’s covers aren’t particuarly scary, but they still really work for me. I love his dreamlike cover for THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, and the strange flying fish on the cover of THE DOOM THAT CAME TO SARNATH.

    I’m someone that’s inordinately affected by cover art, I think. I don’t believe the stories truly stand on their own; because good cover art will set the tone before I even open the book — like a movie trailer that tells you a film is a comedy.

    These covers very successfully position Lovecraft in the realm of weird fantasy, rather than horror, and communicate a very dreamlike tone, at least to me. In a strange way, they bring a new level of enjoyment to the stories.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 17, 2014 12:49 am

  5. > My first Lovecraft book was the Lancer paperback, “The Color Out of Space and Other Stories,”
    > with a hot pink border, surrounding a skeleton in a bridal gown and veil backlit in neon blue.

    Smitty,

    You mean this one?

    http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/The-Color-Out-of-Space-and-Other-Stories.jpg

    > [I] had two of the three Arkham House hardcover collections before losing one to basement flooding.

    Dang! I’m noticing a theme here… rising waters really seem hungry for Lovecraft.

    > Several years ago, I started what is now an annual tradition for me: in October, I read nothing but horror fiction.

    Sounds like a great tradition! Goth Chick, our Thursday blogger, would approve, I’m sure.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 17, 2014 12:57 am

  6. > were the books shown above published before or after the BAF Lovecraft volumes?

    Keith,

    Great question!

    First, for those who have no idea what we’re talking about, the same publisher that produced the books pictured here also published half a dozen Lovecraft collections in paperback as part of the famed Ballantine Adult Fantasy (BAF) series, edited by the legendary Lin Carter.

    These volumes were published between 1970 and 1973, and can be identified by the BAF unicorn logo on the cover. They were:

    The Spawn of Cthulhu – http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Ballantine-Adult-Fantasy-The-Spawn-of-Cthulhu.jpg

    The Survivor and Others – http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Ballantine-Adult-Fantasy-The-Survivor-and-Others.jpg

    Fungi From Yoggoth (Poems) – http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Ballantine-Adult-Fantasy-Fungi-From-Yoggoth.jpg

    The Doom That Came to Sarnath – http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Ballantine-Adult-Fantasy-The-Doom-That-Came-to-Sarnath.jpg

    The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath – http://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Ballantine-Adult-Fantasy-The-Dream-Quest-of-Unknown-Kadath.jpg

    The editions pictured above (with the Murray Tinkelman covers) are all dated 1976. Interestingly, they are all marked “Second Printing” (and Third Printing in at least one case), which made me wonder if Ballantine considered these later printings of the BAF editions.

    However, I’m not certain. Only THE DOOM THAT CAME TO SARNATH credits Lin Carter as editor, which makes me suspect this is a reprint of the BAF edition. However, the rest seem to have been assembled by Derleth — including THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH, which is missing the Lin Carter intro of the BAF edition.

    It will probably need a more competent Lovecraft scholar than I to say definitively which of these books are direct reprints of the BAF editions. Far as I can tell, it looks like a mix.

    > And yes, I will include those in the BAF series.

    Fabulous… and I never doubted you!

    Comment by John ONeill - August 17, 2014 1:19 am

  7. Interesting — I didn’t remember that my original Kadath didn’t have the Cater introduction. Is the Carter introduction included in Sarnath? Are they otherwise printed from the same plates? (If you have both editions, just check a couple of pages to see if they’re identical.)

    Technically I’m not sure if Survivor and Fungi were BAF titles — they were definitely associational, at least (like Peake and Eddison), but they don’t have the Unicorn Head. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that edition of Survivor — I’d be interested in the contents.

    Comment by Joe H. - August 17, 2014 1:54 am

  8. John — That’s it! I try to keep my copy free from exposure to the elements. Looks like I misspelled “Colour” and got the title a little wrong. I did eventually replace the damaged book, and found a rather expensive copy of the 3rd Arkham House collection.

    Comment by smitty59 - August 17, 2014 9:33 am

  9. > Interesting — I didn’t remember that my original Kadath didn’t have the Cater introduction.

    Joe,

    The 1976 (Murray Tinkelman-covered) edition of KADATH is missing both the introduction and the postscript by Lin Carter. It’s otherwise identical, right down to the page numbers.

    > Is the Carter introduction included in Sarnath?

    Yes.

    > Are they otherwise printed from the same plates?

    Yes – the contents appear to be identical. Here’s the TOC for the 1971 BAF edition of THE DOOM THAT CAME TO SARNATH (taken from the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, since I don’t have a copy, at http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?38569):

    About The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Farewell to the Dreamlands • essay by Lin Carter
    The Other Gods • (1933)
    The Tree • (1921)
    The Doom That Came to Sarnath • (1920) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft
    The Tomb • (1922)
    Polaris • (1920)
    Beyond the Wall of Sleep • (1919)
    Memory • (1923) • poem
    What the Moon Brings • poem
    Nyarlathotep • (1920) • poem
    Ex Oblivione • (1921) • poem
    The Cats of Ulthar • (1920)
    Hypnos • (1922)
    Nathicana • (1927) • poem
    From Beyond • (1934)
    The Festival • (1925)
    The Nameless City • (1921)
    The Quest of Iranon • (1935)
    The Crawling Chaos • (1921) • by Winifred V. Jackson and H. P. Lovecraft [as by H. P. Lovecraft and Elizabeth Berkeley ]
    In the Walls of Eryx • (1939) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and Kenneth Sterling
    Imprisoned with the Pharaohs • (1924) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft [as by H. P. Lovecraft and Harry Houdini ]
    A Partial Chronology of Lovecraft’s Early Work • essay by Lin Carter

    The contents of my 1976 edition, with the Murray Tinkelman cover, are identical. The copyright page reads:

    First Ballantine Books Edition: February 1971
    Second Printing: September 1976

    Looks like the only things that changed were the front and back covers.

    > Technically I’m not sure if Survivor and Fungi were BAF titles — they were definitely associational, at least
    > (like Peake and Eddison), but they don’t have the Unicorn Head.

    You’re right. My copy of SURVIVOR doesn’t mention BAF anywhere. Lin Carter doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with it, and he was the general editor of BAF, so that may explain it.

    > I don’t think I’ve ever seen that edition of Survivor — I’d be interested in the contents.

    It’s a collection of Lovecraft fragments finished by August Derleth. Here’s the TOC:

    The Survivor • (1954) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    Wentworth’s Day • (1957) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    The Peabody Heritage • (1957) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    The Gable Window • (1957) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    The Ancestor • (1957) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    The Shadow Out of Space • (1957) • novelette by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth
    The Lamp of Alhazred • (1957) • shortstory by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth

    For more details, see http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?302798.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 17, 2014 12:57 pm

  10. > I did eventually replace the damaged book, and found a rather expensive copy of the 3rd Arkham House collection.

    Smitty,

    Just keep it away from floods! :)

    Comment by John ONeill - August 17, 2014 1:01 pm

  11. John — Thanks! Very informative. (And I didn’t twig to the fact that Survivor was another Derleth volume — I was getting the title confused with Lovecraft’s The Outsider.)

    I wonder why they kept the Carter introduction in Sarnath but not in Kadath. (Actually, as I think about it, my original Sarnath (also lost to the flood, dammit) was the Whelan edition, and it too was internally identical to bhe BAF edition.)

    Actually, as I think about it,

    Comment by Joe H. - August 17, 2014 1:57 pm

  12. Joe,

    Looks like your comment got cut off, there.

    Good question about SARNATH vs KADATH. I’m sure someone knows the answer… we just need to keep asking.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 18, 2014 1:24 am

  13. Hmmmm … Not sure if it was cut off, or if it just ended up with a sentence fragment at the end there because I was flipping back & forth to the ISFDB (a potentially very evil site) to check details on the Sarnath & Kadath reprints.

    If I get a chance I’ll have to reread the intros to see if I can find any indication there of why they might have dropped the one but not the other.

    Comment by Joe H. - August 18, 2014 7:41 am

  14. Sorry to drop out of the conversation over the weekend, guys. Joe is correct that there were some associational Lovecraft collections that never had the unicorn head colophon and as a result aren’t considered part of the BAF series itself. I’m not sure why that is, because the ones I’ve seen (I don’t have all of them) all have covers done by the same artist. I’ve got the associational volumes in with my BAF volumes, fwiw.

    Comment by westkeith - August 19, 2014 10:57 am

  15. > I was flipping back & forth to the ISFDB (a potentially very evil site) to check details on the Sarnath & Kadath reprints.

    Joe,

    ISFDB has proven absolutely invaluable to me. Like most fan-run databases, it’s not always 100% accurate or complete, but it’s very, very close, and it’s right a lot more often than it’s wrong.

    I spend 20-30 minutes there a day, probably more than I spend on any other site except Black Gate.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 19, 2014 4:17 pm

  16. > Joe is correct that there were some associational Lovecraft collections that never had the unicorn head
    > colophon and as a result aren’t considered part of the BAF series itself. I’m not sure why that is

    Keith,

    My assumption has always been that the BAF line was edited by Lin Carter, and that was the distinction. Ballantine published other fantasy during this period, and used the same cover artists, but if it wasn’t edited by Carter, he didn’t put the Unicorn on it. Simple as that.

    Comment by John ONeill - August 19, 2014 4:19 pm

  17. John,

    That was pretty much what I assumed. Considering the other HPL volumes look identical to the BAF versions except for the colophon, I tend to treat them as though they were part of the series, at least as far as my collecting and shelving is concerned.

    Comment by westkeith - August 20, 2014 3:56 pm

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