Worldbuilding Wednesday 3/9/22: Blasphemous Books (Lovecraft I)

A sample page from the Necronomicon by artist Daniel Govar. Too pretty to be blasphemous?

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.

Probably what that original copy looked like, minus the purple stickies. If the book was real, of course. Which it isn’t.

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?


Lovecraftian Books

Eldritch Surveys

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

Shoggastic Encyclopedia

The Shebbish Scrolls

Eternal Transformations

Ebon Encyclopedia

Kreinhausen’s Tome of Blasphemous Beings

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