A Lovecraft Library

There are so many Lovecraft texts in and out of print that it's difficult to determine where to start and what to prioritize in order to build proper collection.  Well, I've done that for you to some extent.  The following is the most economical organization of volumes that will give you the most complete Lovecraft library.  I'm far from finished reading/collecting Lovecraft volumes, but what I have is listed on this page.


Note that it is easy to encounter sticker-shock when searching for a particular book on this list.  However, in many cases you can fin a reasonably-priced volume by searching outside of the obvious Amazon/eBay marketplaces.  Additionally, many of these books are reprinted as updated editions, of which the more recent editions are often more correct and complete, so it sometimes pays to wait.


Solo fiction

If you want all of Lovecraft's solo fiction in one place, there is really only one volume to get.

H.P. Lovecraft: The Complete Fiction (Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions)

I had been wanting this book for some time, but was reluctant to buy it without thumbing through it first.  I happened to find a copy with the cellophane broken, and I was able to see the contents.  Two things I especially liked were that the contents were in chronological order of publication (or maybe composition; I haven't looked into this question yet) and all the stories were prefaced by a short paragraph by S.T. Joshi (plus a short biographical piece at the front of the book) giving the dates and context of each.  I bought it and have been working my way through it since.

This collection includes many works that cannot be found in almost any other collection, and certainly not all of them all in one volume.  These include Lovecraft's earliest stories as well as hard-to-find pieces like The History of the Necronomicon and the discarded draft of The Shadow over Innsmouth, as well as (just as a bonus), the essay Supernatural Horror In Literature.


Note that you are strongly encouraged only to buy the 2nd edition of this volume.  The original edition is notorious for typographical errors.  There is nothing to say "1st" or "2nd edition" on or in the book (except the year: 1st = 2008, 2nd edition = 2011), but apparently they have two distinct differences: the bookmark of the 1st edition is yellow; the 2nd edition's is purple.  Also, the 1st edition has gold on the facing side of the pages, whereas it is silver on the 2nd edition.

*My main criticism of this collection (other than the fact that the pages are so thin that they're too easy to tear when reading in bed) is that it claims to be his "complete fiction," without including almost any of the "collaborations."  I put that in quotes even though in many cases the collaborator merely suggested the premise either when contracting Lovecraft as a ghost-writer or in a letter.  It is a mistake to overlook these works (as most volumes do) since they represent about a third of his fiction output, plus most were written toward the end of his life, when his skill was arguably at his greatest.  To get all those tales, see the Collaborations section below.

More about this volume here: http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/sources/hplf.aspx.
  Update: There's a new collection of just the Cthulhu Mythos stories for the same price, although this is a better deal and, like I said above, includes his early and lesser-known stories.

There are many other collections as well, often with extras such as critical essays or early drafts of individual stories.  Some are illustrated quite nicely as well.  There are far too many collections to list them all, and it depends on your intent: literary analysis, collector, etc.  A good (though incomplete) list can be found here.


Annotated editions

These are each good starting points for anyone interested in "test-driving" Lovecraft's fiction.  They give a sampling of some of his better works (particularly the first volume below) while introducing biographical details about the author that make him as interesting a subject as his works.  But the annotations can just as easily be ignored by any reader who isn't especially interested.  Also, they're simply large paperbacks, making them very portable, as opposed to some of the more "collectible" volumes that you wouldn't toss in a backpack.

Granted, Lovecraft is neither so ancient an author nor so obscure in his references that he is inaccesible without supplimentary annotations.  However, I found the notes tremendously helpful as well as just plain interesting.  They cover everything from vocabulary (even etymology), history, and context such as biographical details including from which texts Lovecraft derived certain bits of knowledge and/or inspiration.

I break these editions down to their table of contents (and the reverse; I list in which volumes individual stories may be found) on this page.

The Dell series

The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft - H.P. Lovecraft, S.T. Joshi, et al
More Annotated H.P. Lovecraft - H.P. Lovecraft, S.T. Joshi, Peter Cannon

The Penguin Classics

Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1999)
The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories (2001)
The Dreams in the Witch House: And Other Weird Stories
(2004)

Beware when tracking down the Penguin series, especially online.  In the UK there is a similarly-titled series of (also by Penguin) called the Penguin Mini Modern Classics, all of which have contents different than in those listed above.

And...

The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft - Leslie S. Klinger

Although there's some overlap in all of the above, these volumes each have their own character and unique selling points, so they're worth owning even if you already have any other editions.  I have all of the above.  Klinger is currently working on a second volume in his series.


Collaborations

Lovecraft's collaborations have been collected (completely or usually only partially) in a number of volumes.  I could list some of those here to try to make a complete library, but your best bet is the following two volumes which collect and annotate all the collaborations which Lovecraft primarily wrote.  (Note: There are a very few additional stories that he assisted with such as Henry S. Whitehead's Cassius and Bothon, which are not collected.  Again, the exceptions are discussed on the page covering the annotated volumes.)

The Crawling Chaos and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 1 - H.P. Lovecraft and S.T. Joshi
Medusa's Coil and Others: The Annotated Revisions and Collaborations of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 2 -  H.P. Lovecraft and S.T. Joshi


Poetry

This is the only volume you need.  It is complete.  The original edition had been out of print for some time, so used copies skyrocketed in value (upwards of $100).  However, the 2nd edition is now available, so this is an affordable addition to your library.  It may as well be considered an annotated volume as well since it is more than simply a poetry collection.

The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft and S.T. Joshi


Letters

Lovecraft was famous for his correspondence, and indeed he probably wrote more letters than all his other writings combined, though I've never had the means to attempt a comparative word count to assess that hypothesis.  Aside from the famous Arkham House collections, most other volumes collect letters specifically with certain individuals.  Here are the collections I'm aware of as of this writing:

Selected Letters I (1911-1924) (Arkham House)
Selected Letters II (1925-1929) (Arkham House)
Selected Letters III (1929-1931) (Arkham House)
Selected Letters IV (1932-1934) (Arkham House)
Selected Letters V (1934-1937) (Arkham House)
Essential Solitude: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth (Hippocampus Press)
Fritz Leiber and H.P. Lovecraft: Writers of the Dark (Wildside Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Alfred Galpin (Hippocampus Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Elizabeth Toldridge & Anne Tillery Renshaw (Hippocampus Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Henry Kuttner (Necronomicon Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to James F. Morton (Hippocampus Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Rheinhart Kleiner (Hippocampus Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Samuel Loveman and Vincent Starrett (Necronomicon Press)
H.P. Lovecraft: Letters to Richard F. Searight (Necronomicon Press)
H. P. Lovecraft: Letters to Robert Bloch and Others (Hippocampus Press)
A Means to Freedom: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard (Two volumes; Hippocampus Press)
O Fortunate Floridian: H.P. Lovecraft’s Letters to R.H. Barlow (University of Tampa Press)
(Lovecraft Letters Volume 1:) Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H.P. Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei (Night Shade Books)
Lovecraft Letters Volume 2: Letters from New York (Night Shade Books)
H.P. Lovecraft in the Argosy: Collected Correspondence from the Munsey Magazines (Necronomicon Press)

Also: Miscellaneous Writings.  This isn't a letters collection per se, but it is writings on various subjects culled from Lovecraft's letters.  Might also be filed into the section below.



Essays

Lovecraft wrote on many subjects, and these collections give an idea of his many interests.  They also reveal much about him as a person, his interests and (self!-)education and such.  For example, it has been pointed out that the "Travel" collection puts to rest the myth that Lovecraft was a hermit or recluse all his life.

Collected Essays, Volume 1: Amateur Journalism
Collected Essays, Volume 2: Literary Criticism
Collected Essays, Volume 3: Science
Collected Essays, Volume 4: Travel
Collected Essays, Volume 5: Philosophy; Autobiography & Miscellany


Biographical

Lovecraft is revealed through all of his writings, but biographies of his life are helpfully in putting all his work in context.

The Private Life of H.P. Lovecraft - Sonia Green (his ex-wife; written under the name Sonia H. Davis)

I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (2 vols, hardcover) - S.T. Joshi (Hippocampus Press); this restores 150,000 words cut for space reasons from the original edition, and is also thoroughly revised and updated in regard to new information on Lovecraft that has come to light since 1996. It may be considered the last word on Lovecraft biography.

A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H.P. Lovecraft - S.T. Joshi (Wildside Press, December 1996)

An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia - S.T. Joshi with David E. Schultz (Greenwood Press, 2001)

Primal Sources: Essays on H.P. Lovecraft - S.T. Joshi (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2003)

The Rise and Fall of the Cthulhu Mythos - S.T. Joshi (Poplar Bluff, MO: Mythos Books, 2008)


Other books

These are all (again!) by S.T. Joshi and cover topics relating to the genre of "weird fiction."  There are many, many more books out there, but I pulled these titles from Joshi's website because they showcase the scope of scholarship peripheral to Lovecraft.  That's in addition to all the texts (even journals) with literary criticism about Lovecraft's works.

Sixty Years of Arkham House: A History and Bibliography (Arkham House, 1999)

The Weird Tale (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990)

The Modern Weird Tale (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001)

The Evolution of the Weird Tale (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2004)

Emperors of Dreams: Some Notes on Weird Poetry (Sydney: P'rea Press, 2008)

Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction (New York: Hippocampus Press, 2009)

Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction (two volumes)


Moving Beyond

There is so much more I could include here, but things diverge wildly at this point, so I will instead just list some categories for you to explore.

The Lovecraft circle - Lovecraft corresponded with a number of authors during his lifetime, influencing them (and vice versa).  Many elements in his works appeared (almost always with his encouragement) in others' stories, and he often returned the favor.  Additionally, he mentored and critiqued several writers such as Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Robert E. Howard, and Robert Bloch, to name a few.

The Cthulhu Mythos - This is a huge category.  The so-called Cthulhu Mythos has been extended directly by many authors beyond the Lovecraft circle of his day.  This category begins with many of the stories from the Lovecraft circle mentioned above, but continues prodigiously today.  For example, Neil Gaimen and Wilum Pugmire famously continue the tradition.  (August Derleth did so badly as well.)  See the Black Wings anthology collections (edited by Joshi; now working on the fourth volume as of this writing) for examples of the most current writings in the field.  There are a number of volumes of short fiction and novels that play with Lovecraft's characters, settings, and other creations.  A good example I'm reading at the moment is Reanimators by Pete Rawlik.  Choasium and a few other publishers also produce topic-specific anthology collections of work based on Lovecraft's stories.  For example, Eldritch Chrome is one of several volumes of futuristic or sci-fi stories.  Other anthologies are based in other time periods (e.g., Frontier Cthulhu) and/or built around certain HPL stories (e.g., "Innsmouth," "Shadow out of Time," etc.).

Literary criticism - There is no end to scholarship in the field of interpreting and dissecting Lovecraft's work.  In addition to the collections of essays, there are/have been many journals dedicated to the author, both in print and out.  See, for example, this list for a sampling of some volumes.

Influenced by Lovecraft - Finally, there are those whose work does not tie into Lovecraft's universe, but whose authors clearly took something from it.  Stephen King was strongly influenced at an early age.  Clive Barker's urban fantasy worlds and creatures from/within them have clear parallels with the Dream Lands and other works.  And so on.

Influences of Lovecraft - His essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature" provides more than a summer reading list, and that is only the beginning of what influenced Lovecraft.  Obviously there's a lot of Poe and Lord Dunsany.  Joshi has also compiled and annotated collections of works Lovecraft internalized during his life.  There is also H.P Lovecraft's Book of Horror which collects some of these works along with original b&w illustrations.  It was published by Barnes & Noble in 1993 and can be found fairly inexpensively.
Update #1: There is also an annotated edition out.  I haven't had a copy in-hand to compare if the story collections match.
Update #2: Recently published (2015) were two collections: H. P. Lovecraft’s Favorite Horror Stories.  Vol.1: The Ghost of Fear and Others and Vol.2: The Dead Valley and Others.

Comics Adaptations - For the most part you can skip the film adaptations since none of those has come close to the qulaity of the source material, but many of the graphic novels have done a good job.  In particular I would recommend The Lovecraft Anthology (2012, two volumes; multiple artists in each, usually very faithful to the source material) and the At the Mountains of Madness graphic novel (2010 Sterling) by I. N. J. Culbard.  Additionally, there are many "spin-off" stories of varying quality that expand the mythos beyond straight adaptations.  See titles by Boom Comics, for example.

Role-playing and other games - Lovecraft's loosely-connected stories create the impression of a universe, so it's natural that gamers would try to inhabit it.  In addition to the role-playing manuals and resources (Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium being the most famous, but Lovecraft also obviously influenced Dungeons & Dragons right from the start), there are also some very advanced board games such as Mansions of Madness.  The miniatures alone are gorgeous works in many cases.  There are also several customizable card games (CCGs) based on Lovecraft's stories.

Movies - Lovecraft has been the basis of films literally countless times.  These include everything from strict adaptations of his stories to being merely an influence.  He has even been the subject of at least a couple documentaries.  An overview of many of these films can be found here.

Music - Like film, Lovecraft has influenced many, many musicians.  In some cases, whole concept albums have been based on his works.  Other times, the influence has been more subtle.  As list of a great many of these recordings can be found here.


Links

http://www.stjoshi.org/bibliography.html - A list of Joshi's work (including non-Lovecraft works, naturally).


   

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