Monday, June 23, 2008

The Art of Arkham House (Part 1)

Arkham House is a “small press” publisher of what is sometimes referred to as “weird fiction”. Founded in 1939 by writers August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, Arkham House was created to publish in hardcover the work of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). Creator of what has come to be known as The Cthulhu Mythos, Lovecraft is today widely recognized as one of the most influential writers of horror fiction, but at the time of his death, his work had mainly been seen only in the pages of pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. Derleth and Wandrei were determined to keep Lovecraft’s work from fading away over time, and in 1939 published a collection of Lovecraft’s work under the title The Outsider and Others. The name Arkham House is derived from Lovecraft’s fictitious town of that name, located somewhere in Massachusetts.


Virgil Finlay, 1939

Since 1939, Arkham House has published over 200 titles: all of Lovecraft’s work (including five volumes of his letters), and that of a number of other writers as well. Many of these writers have also achieved wide recognition and success over the years, in no small part due to the vision and dedication of Derleth and Wandrei. Writers published by Arkham House include Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell, Algernon Blackwood, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, J. G. Ballard, Lucius Shepard, and many, many more.

Arkham House was a labor of love. In 1970, Derleth noted, “…the fact is that in no single year since its founding have the earnings of Arkham House met the expenses, so that it has been necessary for my personal earnings to shore up Arkham House finances.” Derleth died in 1971; the publishing house still exists, but has gone through a number of hands since his death and really is a shadow of its former self.

Arkham house books are known for the quality of their printing and binding, and the dust jackets for their books have a certain look to them that plays an important part of the over-all appeal that these books have to their collectors (myself included—I am the proud owner of over forty Arkham House titles, going back to Lovecraft’s Something About Cats, published in 1949).

Obviously, Arkham House was working with a limited budget when it came to producing artwork for their books—although you will see the occasional full-color dust jacket, for the most part what you will see is art that is limited to one or two colors. However, the publishers were as discerning in their selection of artists as they were in their selection of writers. These designers and illustrators, working within the confines dictated by budgetary concerns, routinely produced work of a very high quality. Arkham House worked with a number of artists over the years. Some are fairly well know to this day; others less so.

I will be presenting a series of posts featuring this wonderful artwork, starting with 1939 through the decade of the1940s. Stay tuned for more!


Ronald Clyne, 1945


Ronald Clyne, 1945


Hannes Bok, 1946


Ronald Clyne, 1946


Hannes Bok, 1946


Ronald Clyne, 1949

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Men, advise where to normal as quickly download film avatar?

Avatar said...

Can Arkham House dust jackets be used as Facebook icons or is that a no-no because they're copyrighted? (SKULL-FACE AND OTHERS would be perfect!!!)

RJ said...

Avatar-- I'd say go for it. I've posted all these book covers, and have not had a problem.