Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1939. First Editions. The first major collection of Lovecraft's weird fiction and the first production by the legendary Arkham House - a landmark in 20th century genre publishing. The 32 stories written for various pulp magazines were gathered and preserved by Lovecraft's friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, who founded Arkham House in 1939 to preserve and publish the best of Lovecraft's fiction. The stories "range from early exercises in Dunsanian pastiche to the mature and highly distinctive tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, which construct a horrific cosmological and historical context for human history. Luckless protagonists who stumble upon various dire intrusions of Cthulhu and his kin, or who unwisely pursue dangerous inquiries in the appropriate revelatory tomes, are inevitably brought to repulsively stick ends. Lovecraft became the consummate master of the confirmatory ending, in which what has been suspected all along finally becomes manifest" (Barron, Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide 3-132). It took Derleth and Wandrei nearly five years to sell through the modest print run, and The Outsider has not been reprinted since.
Enclosed with the present copies are a five letters (written between May 10, 1937 - November 26, 1939) between the Arkham House principals, detailing both the publication history of The Outsider, as well revelatory background information concerning the dustjacket design by Virgil Finlay (1914-1971). In his time, Finlay was among the most in-demand illustrators of fantasy, science fiction, and horror literature in the United States, and his panoramic composition for The Outsider's dustjacket remains among the best executed and most desirable examples in the genre. According to a letter to Derleth from Adolph J. Hyson (of the George Banta Publishing Company), proofs for the dustjacket were struck in three colors - black, bronze blue, and a dark olive green. Both the black and green versions of the dustjacket were vetoed by all involved – the black on account of having "a strangely flat and monotonous effect, without depth or life. Second, and more important, certain of the figures, such as the monkey-like and ass-like creatures to the right of the topmost star containing the woman's figure behind the lettering "By", faded away to almost absolute imperceptibility in black, but stood out with fairly well defined clarity in the blue" (DW to VF, Nov.14, 1939). The green jacket was dismissed right out, and described by Wandrei as being "a peculiarly detestable and odious color." It is not clear how many examples of either the black or green trial state dustjackets survived after being scrapped, though all of the predictably few extant examples originated with the personal collection of Donald Wandrei, sold close to four decades ago. Joshi 15. Item #5219
First Printings, one of 1,268 copies. Two octavo volumes (24cm); black cloth, with titles stamped in gilt on spines; dustjackets; xiv,553,pp. The present offering consists of two unique copies:
- Copy 1: Trivial wrinkling to cloth at crown, else Fine. Dustjacket is unclipped (priced $5.00), gently spine-sunned and lightly edgeworn, with shallow loss to base of spine, and some light dust-soil and waviness to rear panel; Very Good+. Inscribed vertically along the left margin of the rear flap by dustjacket designer Virgil Finlay: "This jacket is a photographic composite of early Weird Tales drawings, probably only one or two were for HPL stories - I wish I might have found time for more of his work which I did admire / Virgil Finlay." Housed in a custom half-morocco clamshell case.
- Copy 2: Trivial wear to lower board edges, faint dust-soil to upper edge of textblock, with mild offsetting and some faint, scattered foxing to endpapers; Near Fine. Inscribed by Arkham House co-founder Donald Wandrei on front endpaper: "For Priscilla – and the goon – Donald Wandrei / Christmas, 1939." In the apparently unique trial dustjacket, printed in green instead of blue, with the flaps and rear panel without text; light wear and a few tiny tears to extremities, hint of sunning to spine, with a faint vertical fold along rear joint, and some mild dust-soil to rear panel; holograph printer's measurements (in ink) across base of spine panel; Very Good+. For the sake of completion, offered together with a Fine copy of the replica dustjacket produced in the 1970's by specialty publisher and collector Gerry de le Ree, from Finlay's original plates. Folded and laid into this copy are examples of the publisher's original prospectus (measuring 7.25" x 7.75"), as well as an earlier, mimeographed announcement letter (measuring 8.5" x 11"). Housed in a custom half-morocco clamshell case.