Mapping the Terrain of Used and Rare Books
Small, independent horror/ science-fiction/ fantasy presses. What can I say? My knees melt for books from these publishers. Just as they do for weird cats, mournful country-rock jams, or freckled, wavy-haired red-heads. As they should. All are some of the most finely-crafted, satisfying things the Creator of the Universe has to offer.
And He has many things to offer. But today we are going to focus on Independent Presses. Especially those focusing on horror and fantasy literature. There are many, many of them out there – many more than I could ever mention, and I already intend to mention what is probably Too Many.
We should probably start, and spend much focus on, with what is the Grandfather of the phenomenon: Arkham House. The project was originally meant to be short-lived – a joint effort
between August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to be used as a machine to keep the works of author H.P. Lovecraft alive between hardcovers, as they dreaded his work would drift into the
obscurity of the dying pages of pulp magazines. The first book published by Arkham was “The Outsider and Others” – appearing in 1939 – a sort of “best of” collection of Lovecraft. This book in Very Good condition starts at around 5,000$ and the price rapidly escalates from there. Approximately 1,000 copies were printed. Beware the 1974 reprint – it is deceptively similar to the original. (I’ll list some First Edition points of the 1939 edition as I find them, if I can. The 5,000$ copy may well be a 1974 reprint misrepresented.)
After “The Outsider” – which sold slowly and poorly – Wandrei left the business (for the time) to go into Military Service and Derleth became sole-proprietor. He decided Arkham House should be a provider for deluxe, hardcover editions of any and all sorts of quality “weird fiction,” and deemed to keep the publishing house running as long as financially possible (which seemed dubious, but he was a
determined sonofabitch, and I’ll talk more about him, as an author, and as a person, on a later post.)
I might talk more about Arkham House titles, again on a later post. But some of the earliest, after “Outsider”, were: “Someone in the Dark (Derleth)”, “Out of Space and Time (Clark Ashton Smith)”, “The Eye and the Finger (Wandrei)”, “Marginalia (Lovecraft)”, “The Opener of the Way (Robert Bloch – author of ‘Psycho’)”, “Dark Carnival (Bradbury)”, “Skull-Face (R.E. Howard)”, “Night’s Black Agents (Fritz Leiber)”, etc…
A good deal of heavy-hitters were published under Derleth’s post.
All books were deluxe editions published in limited numbers with talented and noted artists crafting unique jacket work.
So, for now we will leave Arkham House to be Arkham House and move onto some of the more modern presses that have followed its fine example…
Check on the next post. Alex.