"They walk unseen and foul in lonely places
where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons.
The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their
consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or
city behold the hand that smites."
- The Dunwich Horror, H.P. Lovecraft
The Necronomicon is in fact the
ingenious creation of H.P. Lovecraft, this fact has been debated both as its use
as a literary device and an actual ancient tome. Despite the many disputes
of the fact of who actually invented this "Book of the Dead", there is
no doubt that it has become a definitive icon in both the worlds of the occult
and horror. For the purpose of this study on Lovecraft this webpage will be
discussing The Necronomicon as an invention of Lovecraft for use in his
works. One theory suggests that the Necronomicon was first suggested to
Lovecraft in his younger life during his study of Ancient Egyptian mythology and
the Egyptian "Book of the Dead" as well as his study of the original Arabian
Nights brought sparked the young Lovecraft's imagination leading to the
creation of an imaginary childhood alter-ego known as Abdul
Alhazred, later to become the pseudo-author of the infamous Necronomicon.
The Necronomicon along with other tomes of ancient evil were mentioned
and used in Lovecraft's work and subsequently used time and again by other
Lovecraftian authors including "Nameless Cults" (Unausprechlichen
Kulten), "The Book of Eibon" (Liber Ivonis), "Cultes
des Ghoules", and Des Vermis Mysteriis ("Mysteries of the
The first appearance of the Necronomicon was in Lovecraft’s “The Hound” (September 1922), although Abdul Alhazred, the book’s author, was mentioned earlier in “The Nameless City” (January 1921). It was in this tale that the best-known quote from The Necronomicon first appeared:
The Necronomicon as a plot device is always the subject of examination or investigation in many of Lovecraft's works, especially in "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Dunwich Horror". To read from the Necronomicon is to either summon or defend against Cthulhu and the Old Ones. Although there was never a definitive description of the Necronomicon in his stories, this left the book to remain a mysterious and ominous subject for readers and those vainly searching for a real copy of the book. This did not stop the neo-pagan and occult booksellers from publishing false copies of the book in the 1980's. The question remains whether Lovecraft's Necronomicon is in fact real, as it turns out, most likely, that's what he wanted you to think.
“As for bringing
the Necronomicon into objective existence—I wish indeed I had the time and
imagination to assist in such a project...but I’m afraid it’s a rather large
order—especially since the dreaded volume is supposed to run something like a
thousand pages! I have ‘quoted’ from pages as high as 770 or thereabouts.
Moreover, one can never produce anything even a tenth as terrible and impressive
as one can awesomely hint about. If anyone were to try to write the
Necronomicon, it would disappoint all those who have shuddered at cryptic
references to it.”
- H. P. Lovecraft—from a letter addressed to James Blish and William Miller, Jr.
History of the Necronomicon
by H.P. Lovecraft
title Al-Azif - "azif" being the word used by the Arabs to
designate that nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of dæmons.
Composed by Abdul Alhazred, a mad poet of Sanaa, in Yemen, who is said to have flourished during the period of the Omayyad caliphs ca. 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 al Khaliyeh, or "Empty Space" of the ancients and "Dahma" 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, al Hazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon (Al Azif) was written, and of his final death or disappearnce (738 A.D.) many terrible and conflicting things are told. He is said by Ebn Khallikan (12th century 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 the 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 Muslim, worshipping unknown deities whom he called Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu.
In A.D. 950 the al Azif, which had gained a considerable though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age, was secretly translated into Greek by Theodorus Philetas of Constantinople under the title Necronomicon. For a century it impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts, when it was suppressed and burnt by the patriarch Michael. After this it is only heard of furtively, but (1228) Olaus Wormius made a Latin translation later in the Middle Ages, and the Latin text was printed twice - once in the 15th century in blackletter (evidently in German) and once in the 17th (probably Spanish); both editions being without identifying marks, and located as to time and place by internal typographic evidence only. The work, both Latin and Greek, was banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, shortly after its Latin translation, which called attention to it. The Arabic original was lost as early as Wormius' time, as indicated by his prefatory note (there is, however, a vague account of a secret copy appearing in San Francisco during the present century but later perishing by fire); and no sight of the Greek copy - which was printed in Italy between 1500 and 1550 - has been reported since the burning of a certain Salem man's library in 1692. A translation made by Dr. Dee was never printed, and exists only in fragments recovered from the original manuscript. Of the Latin texts now existing one (fifteenth century) is known to be in the British Museum under lock and key, which another (17th century) is in the Bilbiotheque Nationale at Paris. A seventeenth century edition is in the Widener Library at Harvard, and in the Library of Miskatonic University at Arkham; also in the library of the University of Buenos Aires. Numerous other copies probably exist in secret, and a 15th century one is persistently rumored to form part of the collection of a celebrated American millionaire. A still vaguer rumor credits the preservation of a 16th century Greek text in the Salem family of Pickman; but if it was so preserved, it vanished with the artist R.U. Pickman, who disappeared early in 1926. The book is rigidly suppressed by the authorities of most countries, and by all branches of organized ecclesiasticism. Reading leads to terrible consequences. It was from rumors of this book (of which relatively few of the general public know) that R.W. Chambers is said to have derived the idea of his early novel The King in Yellow.
1st Edition - Al Azif written circa A.D. 730 at Damascus by Abdul
2nd Edition - Translated into Greek as Necronomicon, A.D. 950 by Theodorus Philetas.
3rd Edition - Burnt by Patriarch Michael A.D. 1050 (i.e., Greek Text...Arabic Text now lost).
4th Edition - Olaus translates Greek into Latin, A.D. 1228.
5th Edition - Latin and Greek editions suppressed by Gregory IX - A.D. 1232.
6th Edition - 12..? Black letter edition printed in Germany.
7th Edition - 15..? Greek text printed in Italy.
8th Edition - 16..? Spanish translation of Latin text.
FROM THE NECRONOMICON
(as featured in various stories by H.P. Lovecraft, not chronological)
“Nor is it to be thought that man is either the oldest or the last of earth’s masters, or that the common bulk of life and substances walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, They walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man’s truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones where Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, and after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.” - “The Dunwich Horror”