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    Lovecraft's Legendary First Book, in the Original Unbound Sheets, with the Extremely Scarce Un-Cancelled Copyright Page

    H. P. Lovecraft. The Shunned House. With a Preface by Frank Belknap Long, Jr. Recluse Press: Athol, Mass., 1928. First edition, one of a supposed edition of only 300 copies. Octavo. [59], [1, blank] pages. Complete in eight unbound gatherings (the first seven gatherings have eight pages each, the final gathering has four). Printed on paper watermarked "Canterbury Laid," as issued.

    This copy does not have the cancel copyright notice on the copyright page (nor any residue on the copyright page to indicate that one was removed); our copy is Currey's rare priority A (one of only an estimated few thus). Some toning to gatherings, several gatherings with some tears along folds, some soiling and spots of glue residue, final gathering with chips and tape repairs to the bottom of each page, not affecting text. Overall, a very good copy of this rare item. Housed in an Arkham House plain envelope (however, there is no indication that this copy indeed came from Arkham House - it is quite possible that the sheets and the envelope were married together later). Envelope worn and torn.


    More Information:

    The publication history of this book is rather convoluted. W. Paul Cook had wanted to publish The Shunned House in the first issue of The Recluse, but perhaps because of space limitations, did not do so, and thus decided to print the story as a small book. Cook printed approximately 300 copies in mid-1928. "In 1934 [R. H.] Barlow [Lovecraft's literary executor] received about 225 copies of the unbound sheets. It is rumored that he bound only eight copies: one was bound in natural leather and was given to Lovecraft in 1935. The other seven were bound in boards...These seven copies bear either a printed label ("Copyright 1935 / R. H. Barlow") pasted over the copyright notice (p. [2]), or the original copyright notice crossed out by hand to read: "Copyright 1936 / R. H. Barlow"...It is believed that Barlow distributed some copies in wrappers and other copies in an unbound state, both bearing his printed copyright notice, but none has been seen by the compiler. Of the 225 copies, Barlow apparently distributed only about 50, having found some unusable...Arkham House, when obtaining the remainder of the unbound sheets, bound or distributed 150 as follows: 50 unbound copies bear a printed label pasted over the original copyright notice; 100 are bound in black cloth bearing the printed copyright notice...The former were distributed ca. 1959; the later ca. 1961." (Joshi).

    The story is based on an actual house in Providence, Rhode Island, built around 1763 and still standing at 135 Benefit Street. Lovecraft was familiar with the house because his aunt, Mrs. Lillian Clark, had lived there in 1919-1920 as a companion to Mrs. H. C. Babbitt. But the writing of the story was triggered by Lovecraft's seeing a similar house in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in early October 1924. Lovecraft describes the house in a letter to his aunt, dated November 4-6, 1924, as follows: "on the northeast corner of Bridge St. & Elizabeth Ave. is a terrible old house-a hellish place where night-black deeds must have been done in the early seventeen-hundreds-with a blackish unpainted surface, unnaturally steep roof, & an outside flight of stairs leading to the second story, suffocatingly embowered in a tangle of ivy so dense that one cannot but imagine it accursed or corpse-fed. It reminded me of the Babbitt House in Benefit St., which as you recall made me write those lines entitled 'The House' in 1920." (See S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, pp. 242-243).

    In his definitive biography of Lovecraft, S. T. Joshi describes The Shunned House as "a dense, richly textured story with convincing historical background and a fine sense of cumulative horror...[T]he hideous climax (with another genuine surprise ending) and the thought-provoking scientific rationale for the horror make this a noteworthy landmark in Lovecraft's early corpus" (S. T. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, p. 350).

    Currey, p. 325. Joshi, Sixty Years of Arkham House, 61A.



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