The Commonplace Book
Now being printed and shipping soon is our new typographical replica of Lovecraft's Notes & Commonplace Book.
A “commonplace book” is simply a collection of memorabilia, or a kind of privately-compiled encyclopedia. Lovecraft started his in 1919 when he began to turn from writing essays to writing fiction, using a blank cash account book. For the next fifteen years he added pencilled entries to this growing list of story ideas and inspirations—some of which came directly from his dreams—along with notes about his developing theories on writing weird literature.
In 1934, Lovecraft exchanged his well-used handwritten original commonplace book for a fresh typed version by his young Floridian friend Robert H. Barlow. HPL added more handwritten notations in his new “black book” for an additional year. Lovecraft kept another handwritten black book, using a recycled calendar for 1927. In this notebook he wrote out his own plot summaries of classic works of supernatural horror fiction by Poe, Machen, Dunsany, Blackwood, M.R. James and others, along with analytic lists of weird ideas and suggestions for how to write a weird tale. Barlow also prepared a typed transcription of this material in 1934. (Lovecraft’s originals and Barlow’s transcriptions are now in the collection of the John Hay Library at Brown University.)
In his final instructions, HPL named Barlow as his literary executor. Not long after Lovecraft’s death, Barlow found himself residing with the Beck family of Lakeport, California. The Becks had a small printing business, The Futile Press, that had printed small editions of works by Clark Ashton Smith. Barlow was eager to publish an edition of Lovecraft’s work and with the Becks combined elements from both “black books” to print seventy-five numbered copies of The Notes and Commonplace Book of H.P. Lovecraft in 1938. Two copies, numbered 9 and 10, were deposited at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C. After the Futile Press edition, the Commonplace Book was not printed again until Necronomicon Press released an edition in 1978, and another in 1987 edited and extensively annotated by David E. Schultz.
Quite recently, HPLHS member Robert S. Marshall visited the Library of Congress and took photos of the two copies of the Futile Press edition deposited there. He very kindly sent those photos to the Society for the benefit of his fellow members. As the Futile and Necronomicon Press editions are now both scarce and expensive (copies of the 1938 edition can go for tens of thousands of dollars), we thought perhaps the stars were right to warrant a new edition. We have created a painstakingly detailed typographic replica of the 1938 original, augmented with never-before-published material based on the original documents. Get yours here!