Item #6954 THREE WHO DIED: A JUDGE PECK MYSTERY - INSCRIBED TO H.P. LOVECRAFT. August W. Derleth.
THREE WHO DIED: A JUDGE PECK MYSTERY - INSCRIBED TO H.P. LOVECRAFT
THREE WHO DIED: A JUDGE PECK MYSTERY - INSCRIBED TO H.P. LOVECRAFT

THREE WHO DIED: A JUDGE PECK MYSTERY - INSCRIBED TO H.P. LOVECRAFT

New York: Loring & Mussey, 1935. First Edition. Derleth's third book, and the third of ten mystery novels featuring his recurring characters Judge Peck and Dr. Considine. Set in Sac (Sauk) City, 20 miles from Madison, Wisconsin, Peck and Considine look quietly into the sudden death of a young man, his wife, and their doctor. Derleth began working on Three Who Died in January, 1934, revising it throughout the year, and discussing it off and on with Lovecraft in their correspondence. In a February 16, 1935 letter to Derleth, Lovecraft mentioned "I shall hail "Three Who Died" with the keenest interest & appreciation – who knows but that I may recover my childhood interest in the detective tale!" By mid-March that year, he would again write Derleth "I shall surely be on the lookout for "Three Who Died", & fancy it will prove even more entertaining than its predecessor. Glad the later members of the series continue the upward curve." In the time it took him to write that letter, this copy – evidently one of the first six copies of the novel to land in Derleth's hands – arrived at Lovecraft's home. He read it within five days, and offered Derleth the following assessment in a March 20, 1935 letter:

"Well – I've read "Three Who Died" – & certainly enjoyed it to the limit! It's a tremendously clever piece of work, & far ahead of "All Fours" in point of construction – although the latter is a fine book, none the less, & vivid in atmosphere & narrative value. This one is a straight enigma, frankly presented as such, & I didn't get my suspicions straight till around p.145. It wasn't until the 160's that I felt reasonably certain. This tale is much more convincing than its predecessor. Melodrama & the grotesque are absent, so that the case sounds as if it might have come out of the papers. The various solvers go about their work in logical fashion, & the crimes themselves are natural – implicit parts of the pattern & in no sense artificially dragged in...it's a splendid book of its type, & I only hope the later volumes sustain the same standard...as I'm sure they do & will. I genuinely enjoyed it, & couldn't interrupt my original sitting till it was done."

Over the years we have seen any number of books from Lovecraft's library bearing his ownership signature, but genuine presentations to him – particularly from anyone within his inner circle – are exceedingly rare in commerce. An extraordinary copy, conveying both the great esteem Derleth had for Lovecraft, and the admiration Lovecraft had for his younger disciple. Schultz & Joshi, Essential Solitude: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth: 1932-1937, pp.678, 683-686; Wilson 334; Hubin, p.115; Barzun & Taylor 1080. Item #6954

First Printing. Octavo (19.5cm); lime green cloth, with titling and decorative elements stamped in black on spine and front cover; dustjacket; [10],11-252,[4]pp. Inscribed on the front endpaper in a contemporary hand to H.P. Lovecraft: "For Howard Phillips Lovecraft, dean of U.S. writers of the weird – with the unqualified admiration of August W. Derleth." Beneath this inscription is a shorter one, written at a slightly later date, with an arrow pointing at the inscription to Lovecraft: "Stodgy as the devil, eh? Grandpa from the south / August." On the verso of the front endpaper appears a third inscription by Derleth: "For Ethel and Walter – this copy – one of the first six issues of the novel, originally bestowed upon an old and dear friend whose death makes it possible to add this one to your shelves – Cordially, August." Spine ends slightly nudged, with a few spots on spine ends, upper corners, and front right fore-edge skillfully (but unnecessarily) re-touched, and some mild tanning to endpapers; Very Good+. In a supplied dustjacket, unclipped (priced $2.00), gently spine-sunned, showing modest shelfwear, scattered foxing, small tears, and a few spots of restoration at spine ends, corner tips, and lower right corner of rear panel; Very Good.

Price: $17,500.00