The Necronomicon , also referred to as the Book of the Dead , or under a purported original Arabic title of Kitab al-Azif , is a fictional grimoire textbook of magic appearing in stories by the horror writer H. Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's short story " The Hound ",  written in , though its purported author, the "Mad Arab " Abdul Alhazred , had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's " The Nameless City ". Lovecraft approved of other writers building on his work, believing such common allusions built up "a background of evil verisimilitude. Capitalizing on the notoriety of the fictional volume, real-life publishers have printed many books entitled Necronomicon since Lovecraft's death.
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The Necronomicon , also referred to as the Book of the Dead , or under a purported original Arabic title of Kitab al-Azif , is a fictional grimoire textbook of magic appearing in stories by the horror writer H. Lovecraft and his followers. It was first mentioned in Lovecraft's short story " The Hound ",  written in , though its purported author, the "Mad Arab " Abdul Alhazred , had been quoted a year earlier in Lovecraft's " The Nameless City ".
Lovecraft approved of other writers building on his work, believing such common allusions built up "a background of evil verisimilitude. Capitalizing on the notoriety of the fictional volume, real-life publishers have printed many books entitled Necronomicon since Lovecraft's death.
How Lovecraft conceived the name Necronomicon is not clear—Lovecraft said that the title came to him in a dream. Chambers ' collection of short stories The King in Yellow , which centers on a mysterious and disturbing play in book form, Lovecraft is not believed to have read that work until Donald R.
Burleson has argued that the idea for the book was derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne , though Lovecraft himself noted that "mouldy hidden manuscripts" were one of the stock features of Gothic literature.
Price notes that the title has been variously translated by others as "Book of the names of the dead", "Book of the laws of the dead", "Book of dead names" and "Knower of the laws of the dead".
Joshi states that Lovecraft's own etymology is "almost entirely unsound. Lovecraft was often asked about the veracity of the Necronomicon , and always answered that it was completely his invention. In a letter to Willis Conover , Lovecraft elaborated upon his typical answer:.
There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon , for I invented these names myself. Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten Reinforcing the book's fictionalization, the name of the book's supposed author, Abdul Alhazred, is not even a grammatically correct Arabic name. In , Lovecraft wrote a brief pseudo-history of the Necronomicon. It was published in , after his death, as " History of the Necronomicon ". According to this account, the book was originally called Al Azif , an Arabic word that Lovecraft defined as "that nocturnal sound made by insects supposed to be the howling of demons", drawing on a footnote by Samuel Henley in Henley's translation of " Vathek ".
He visited the ruins of Babylon , the "subterranean secrets" of Memphis and the Empty Quarter of Arabia. In his last years, he lived in Damascus , where he wrote Al Azif before his sudden and mysterious death in In subsequent years, Lovecraft wrote, the Azif "gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age.
This version "impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts" before being "suppressed and burnt" in by Patriarch Michael a historical figure who died in After this attempted suppression, the work was "only heard of furtively" until it was translated from Greek into Latin by Olaus Wormius. Lovecraft gives the date of this edition as , though the real-life Danish scholar Olaus Wormius lived from to Both the Latin and Greek text, the "History" relates, were banned by Pope Gregory IX in , though Latin editions were apparently published in 15th century Germany and 17th century Spain.
A Greek edition was printed in Italy in the first half of the 16th century. The Elizabethan magician John Dee c. According to Lovecraft, the Arabic version of Al Azif had already disappeared by the time the Greek version was banned in , though he cites "a vague account of a secret copy appearing in San Francisco during the current [20th] century" that "later perished in fire".
The Greek version, he writes, has not been reported "since the burning of a certain Salem man's library in " an apparent reference to the Salem witch trials. According to "History of the Necronomicon " the very act of studying the text is inherently dangerous, as those who attempt to master its arcane knowledge generally meet terrible ends.
However, despite frequent references to the book, Lovecraft was very sparing of details about its appearance and contents. He once wrote that "if anyone were to try to write the Necronomicon , it would disappoint all those who have shuddered at cryptic references to it. In "The Nameless City" , a rhyming couplet that appears at two points in the story is ascribed to Abdul Alhazred:.
That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die. The same couplet appears in " The Call of Cthulhu " , where it is identified as a quotation from the Necronomicon.
This "much-discussed" couplet, as Lovecraft calls it in the latter story, has also been quoted in works by other authors, including Brian Lumley 's The Burrowers Beneath , which adds a long paragraph preceding the couplet.
In his story " History of the Necronomicon ", Lovecraft states that it is rumored that artist R. Pickman from his story " Pickman's Model " owned a Greek translation of the text, but it vanished along with the artist in early The Necronomicon is undoubtedly a substantial text, as indicated by its description in " The Dunwich Horror " In the story, Wilbur Whateley visits Miskatonic University 's library to consult the "unabridged" version of the Necronomicon for a spell that would have appeared on the st page of his own inherited, but defective, Dee edition.
The Necronomicon passage in question states:. Nor is it to be thought Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again.
He knows where They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind; and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them.
They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath?
The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles?
Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not; and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.
The Necronomicon ' s appearance and physical dimensions are not clearly stated in Lovecraft's work. Other than the obvious black letter editions, it is commonly portrayed as bound in leather of various types and having metal clasps. Moreover, editions are sometimes disguised. Many commercially available versions of the book fail to include any of the contents that Lovecraft describes. The Simon Necronomicon in particular has been criticized for this.
According to Lovecraft's "History of the Necronomicon ", copies of the original Necronomicon were held by only five institutions worldwide:. Other copies, Lovecraft wrote, were kept by private individuals. A version is held in Kingsport in " The Festival " The provenance of the copy read by the narrator of " The Nameless City " is unknown; a version is read by the protagonist in "The Hound" Although Lovecraft insisted that the book was pure invention and other writers invented passages from the book for their own works , there are accounts of some people actually believing the Necronomicon to be a real book.
Lovecraft himself sometimes received letters from fans inquiring about the Necronomicon ' s authenticity. Pranksters occasionally listed the Necronomicon for sale in book store newsletters or inserted phony entries for the book in library card catalogues where it may be checked out to one ' A.
Alhazred ', ostensibly the book's author and original owner. The Vatican also receives requests for this book from those who believe the Vatican Library holds a copy. In , Owlswick Press issued an edition of the Necronomicon written in an indecipherable, apparently fictional language known as "Duriac". The book contains a brief introduction by L. Sprague de Camp. The line between fact and fiction was further blurred in the late s when a book purporting to be a translation of "the real" Necronomicon was published.
This book, by the pseudonymous "Simon," had little connection to the fictional Lovecraft Mythos but instead was based on Sumerian mythology. It was later dubbed the " Simon Necronomicon ". Going into trade paperback in it has never been out of print and has sold , copies by making it the most popular Necronomicon to date.
Despite its contents, the book's marketing focused heavily on the Lovecraft connection and made sensational claims for the book's magical power. The blurb states it was "potentially, the most dangerous Black Book known to the Western World".
Three additional volumes have since been published — The Necronomicon Spellbook , a book of pathworkings with the 50 names of Marduk ; Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon , a history of the book itself and of the late s New York occult scene; and The Gates Of The Necronomicon , instructions on pathworking with the Simon Necronomicon. A hoax version of the Necronomicon , edited by George Hay, appeared in and included an introduction by the paranormal researcher and writer Colin Wilson.
David Langford described how the book was prepared from a computer analysis of a discovered "cipher text" by Dr. John Dee. The resulting "translation" was in fact written by occultist Robert Turner, but it was far truer to the Lovecraftian version than the Simon text and even incorporated quotations from Lovecraft's stories in its passages. Wilson also wrote a story, "The Return of the Lloigor", in which the Voynich manuscript turns out to be a copy of the Necronomicon.
With the success of the Simon Necronomicon the controversy surrounding the actual existence of the Necronomicon was such that a detailed book, The Necronomicon Files , was published in attempting to prove once and for all the book was pure fiction. It covered the well-known Necronomicon s in depth, especially the Simon one, along with a number of more obscure ones. It was reprinted and expanded in The Tyson Necronomicon is generally thought to be closer to Lovecraft's vision than other published versions.
Donald Tyson has clearly stated that the Necronomicon is fictional, but that has not prevented his book from being the center of some controversy.
History of the Necronomicon
Original title Al Azif—azif being the word used by the Arabs to designate that nocturnal sound made by insects suppos'd to be the howling of daemons. He visited the ruins of Babylon and the subterranean secrets of Memphis and spent ten years alone in the great southern desert of Arabia—the Roba el Khaliyeh or "Empty Space" of the ancients—and "Dahna" or "Crimson" desert of the modern Arabs, which is held to be inhabited by protective evil spirits and monsters of death. Of this desert many strange and unbelievable marvels are told by those who pretend to have penetrated it. In his last years Alhazred dwelt in Damascus, where the Necronomicon Al Azif was written, and of his final death or disappearance A.