It was Lovecraft who wrote the book on the magic book… the insanity-causing occult book trope that is.
The Necronomicon, entirely an invention of his despite the listings on Amazon, first appeared in 1922 in his short story “The Hound.” It was a treatise on dark magic and the Old Ones, written by the “Mad Arab” Abdul Alhazred in the 8th century and called then Kitab al-Azif.
The author was torn to pieces and eaten by an invisible demon after writing this and the Arabic copies later disappeared. But one apparently made it out of Syria and was translated into Greek, then Latin, and hence into English, a rare copy residing, in Lovecraft’s alt.history, in the library of Miskatonic University. Where it no doubt is continuing to cause trouble for future generations who poke their noses into things that they shouldn’t.
Lovecraft created the word Necronomicon out of several Greek ones: nekros, nomos, and eikon, or dead-law-image, but the missing e in icon translates the title to English simply as “Book of Considering the Dead.” Despite its longevity and notoriety, it was not the first fictional book Lovecraft created. That honor goes to the Pnakotic Manuscripts, which appeared in 1918.
As to the inspiration behind the book? Lovecraft never said, and cited only the Gothic trope of moldering books in cobwebbed libraries. But I think the likely candidate is the Lesser Key of Solomon, that notorious treatise on demon-summoning I took a look at here. Like the Necronomicon, the Lesser Key has a checkered past of multiple translations and compilations, being lost and then found, and having strange and perverse artwork.
Need a Mythos magic book to spice things up in your world?
The Ngorish Guide to Mharinoom
Book of Yoggha
The Shabric Album
The Yellow Journals
The Papyrus of Dzyscha
Book of the High Priest Llyhu
Tales of Lucid Uhm
The N’kai Manuscript
Unspeakable Scrolls of Pnarion
The Byaatic Treatise
Wanderings of a King’s Astrologer among’st the Upper Planes
|The Azhraic Translations
In Pursuit of the Brown Witch
Scroll of the Mad Arab
Golden Papyri of the Hyades
The Betelgeuse Manuscript
The Cosmic Guides of Count Tsuyov
Notebooks of Canopus
The Shebbish Scrolls
Kreinhausen’s Tome of Blasphemous Beings