Arkham House was an American publishing house specializing in weird fiction. It was founded in Sauk City, Wisconsin, in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to publish hardcover collections of H. P. Lovecraft's best works, which had previously been published only in pulp magazines. The company's name is derived from Lovecraft's fictional New England city, Arkham, Massachusetts. Arkham House editions are noted for the quality of their printing and binding. The colophon for Arkham House was designed by Frank Utpatel.

Arkham House
Founded1939; 84 years ago (1939)
FounderAugust Derleth
Donald Wandrei
Headquarters locationSauk City, Wisconsin
Publication typesBooks
Fiction genresweird fiction

Founding edit

In late 1937, after Lovecraft's death, Derleth and Wandrei sought to produce a collection of their friend's best weird fiction from the pulp magazines into a memorial volume. After several failed attempts to interest major publishers in the omnibus volume, the two men realized no publisher would be willing to take a chance with the collection. Derleth and Wandrei then decided to form their own company, Arkham House with the express purpose of publishing all of Lovecraft's writings in hardcover. The omnibus volume was scheduled as the first offering from Arkham House and priced at $5.00, although advance orders were accepted at $3.50. Even at that bargain price, only 150 advance orders were received for The Outsider and Others before its release in 1939.

Arkham House was founded to publish the works of H. P. Lovecraft

The Outsider was printed by the George Banta Co. of Wisconsin in an edition of 1,268 copies. The book was over 550 pages long with small print and featured a dustjacket by fantasy artist Virgil Finlay. The omnibus sold slowly but steadily. Derleth was a successful writer and had a good deal of revenue coming in from his writing work, which allowed him to subsidize Arkham House's operations without it needing to realize a quick profit.

A second Lovecraft omnibus, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, appeared in 1943 as sales on all Arkham House books continued to advance. By 1944, Arkham House was established as a successful small press, with four titles appearing (collections of works by Donald Wandrei, Henry S. Whitehead, Clark Ashton Smith, and a final Lovecraft omnibus). In 1945, Arkham House widened its range by publishing two novels, neither of which had seen print in any form before. These were Witch House by Evangeline Walton and The Lurker at the Threshold by August Derleth (based on an outline by H. P. Lovecraft). Derleth also widened Arkham's range by publishing collections of stories by well-known fantasy authors, the first being Green Tea and Other Ghost Stories by the Irish author J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Collections by Englishmen A.E. Coppard, H. Russell Wakefield, William Hope Hodgson and Algernon Blackwood followed in 1947. Also in 1947 were books by three American writers, including the science fiction novel Slan by A.E. Van Vogt. Derleth must have felt he was in the wrong field as Slan, with a print run of over 4,000 copies proved to be the fastest and best selling Arkham House of the 1940s.

Arkham House published many books in the fantasy and horror field including a small but steady number throughout the 1950s. Robert Weinberg has written that: "However, intense competition from the SF (science fiction) small presses as well as slow sales of certain titles put August Derleth in a precarious bind. Only a generous loan from Dr David H. Keller prevented Arkham from going bankrupt during a period of cash flow problems in 1948.[1][2] Keller visited Derleth's home, "The Place of Hawks" in the company of Sam Moskowitz, the object of the visit being Derleth agreeing to publish a Keller book under the Arkham House imprint, Keller to advance Derleth a loan against the cost of the book. Derleth revealed to Keller and Moskowitz that he owed his printer $2500 and had exhausted every possible source of help. Upon Keller's return to his home in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, he wrote a check for the needed sum and sent it to Derleth as a loan at 35% interest on Derleth's personal note. Reporting the transaction in Thirty Years of Arkham House, Derleth adds: "I had not asked for it; he had offered it with the comment, 'I pride myself on my judgment of character.' No greater compliment could have been paid me or Arkham House.'"[3]

In the late 1960s, Arkham House seemed again on the verge of going bankrupt, but suddenly found a whole new market for its books when the surge in interest in Robert E. Howard (capitalized upon by Donald M. Grant) coincided with a surge in interest in the work of H. P. Lovecraft. All of Lovecraft's works were reprinted in three newly edited omnibus volumes, which were kept continually in print.

In addition to volumes of H. P. Lovecraft's fiction, Arkham House began to publish a five volume edition of Lovecraft's Selected Letters which had been planned from the very start of the company, and which gives an overview of Lovecraft's correspondence to peers, friends and family. Among his correspondents were Arkham House founders, Derleth and Wandrei. (Arkham House's volumes of Lovecraft's letters are highly abridged; unabridged volumes of Lovecraft's letters to individual correspondents have been issued progressively by Hippocampus Press). After a long slow period, Arkham House entered the 1970s with ambitious publishing plans.

Arkham House also published fiction by many of Lovecraft's contemporaries, including Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap Long, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert Bloch, and Derleth himself; classic genre fiction by authors such as William Hope Hodgson (under the prompting of Herman Charles Koenig), Algernon Blackwood, H. Russell Wakefield, Seabury Quinn, and Sheridan Le Fanu; and later writers in the Lovecraft school, such as Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley to whom Derleth gave their earliest publication in hardcover.

Despite the wealth of talented writers who appeared under the Arkham House imprint, it was not a financial success. Derleth wrote in 1970, "[T]he fact is that in no single year since its founding have the earnings of Arkham House met the expenses, so that it has been necessary for my personal earnings to shore up Arkham House finances." Robert Weinberg has stated "Arkham House's greatest flop was Witch House, an excellent novel that took nearly two decades to go out of print."[4]

After Derleth's death in 1971, Donald Wandrei briefly acted as editorial director but declined to resume his interest in the firm permanently.

Prior to the 1980s, Arkham House did not reprint its books (with some exceptions such as Someone in the Dark and Night's Yawning Peal: A Ghostly Company and four of the core Lovecraft collections issued in the 1960s—Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, The Horror in the Museum and The Dunwich Horror and Others). Rights were occasionally sold during the 1960s and 1970s to other publishers who issued paperback editions of Arkham House titles. However, this changed in the 1980s[how?]. There are now multiple printings and/or alternate editions of over 20 individual Arkham House titles.

Operation edit

August Derleth's children April (Rose) and Walden (Wally) Derleth now co-owned the publisher, April running the business while Wally had no direct involvement in its day-to-day operations. April earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977. She became majority stockholder, President, and CEO of Arkham House in 1994, in which capacity she remained until her death.

Wandrei was succeeded as editorial director by James Turner. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Turner expanded the company's range of authors to include such prominent science fiction and fantasy writers as Michael Bishop, Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, James Tiptree, Jr., Michael Shea and J. G. Ballard, often publishing hardcover collections of shorter works. Turner's acquisitions took the publisher away from its roots in weird and horror fiction, and he was eventually dismissed by April Derleth in 1997; he went on to found Golden Gryphon Press.

In 1997, Peter Ruber was appointed as her consulting editor and successor to James Turner. April became president of Arkham House in 2002. She made the house's mission a return to classic weird fiction, which Ruber sought to do. Ruber drew criticism[5] for the hostile opinions of various authors he expressed in his story introductions within Arkham's Masters of Horror (2000). Rumors of his ill-health circulated for some time; he eventually suffered a stroke and his editorial duties at Arkham House lapsed due to this.

The house's publishing schedule slowed considerably between 2000 and 2006, with only nine books issued—In the Stone House by Barry N. Malzberg (2000); Book of the Dead by E. Hoffmann Price (a collection of memoirs of writers known by Price, 2001); Arkham House's Masters of Horror (ed. Peter Ruber, 2000); The Far Side of Nowhere by Nelson Bond (2002); The Cleansing by John D. Harvey (a horror novel, 2002); Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith (ed. Scott Connors, 2003); Cave of a Thousand Tales by Milt Thomas (a biography of pulp writer Hugh B. Cave, 2004); Other Worlds Than Ours, another collection by Nelson Bond (2005); and Evermore (a collection of tales in tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James Robert Smith & Stephen Mark Rainey, 2006).

In 2005, Arkham House was awarded the World Fantasy Award for Small Press Achievements—the trophy at that time was a bust of H. P. Lovecraft.

In early 2009, it was announced that George Vanderburgh of Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, and Robert Weinberg, would jointly take over the editorial duties at Arkham House. That year Battered Silicon Dispatch Box issued four new volumes of stories by August Derleth under the umbrella title "The Macabre Quarto" under a joint imprint with Arkham House, which constituted the latter's only output since 2006.

In 2010, The Arkham Sampler (1948-49) was reissued in a limited edition (250 sets) two-volume facsimile reprint of the now-rare magazine issued by Arkham House that ran four issues a year 1948–1949. This work was issued by Arkham House co-published with the August Derleth Society. In the same year Jon Lellenberg's novel Baker Street Irregular was issued under the Mycroft and Moran imprint.

Status edit

George Vanderburgh's blog at Battered Silicon Dispatch Box announced a number of Arkham House titles for 2011 and after (the last being Evermore), none of which had appeared as of January 2017 due to April Derleth's death on March 21, 2011.[6][7][8][9][10] The publisher's website announced in April 2011 that her children would take over the running of the firm. Danielle Jacobs was named president, and her brother Damon Derleth as vice president; they are also the current owners. George Vanderburgh would continue as house editor, as would Robert Weinberg until his death in September 2016.

No books have been issued under the Arkham House imprint in the 2020s; the press has reprinted some backlist titles. Books had previously been published almost every year from 1939 to 2010 (except for 1940, 1955/56, and 2006).

As of June 7, 2023, the Arkham House web site,, has been down for several months. Arkham House has not made an announcement about the status of the company. It was stated on the August Derleth/Arkham House Facebook page that Arkham House is no longer in business, and they have not replied to several attempts at contact.

Other imprints edit

Arkham House published under two additional imprints during its history.

In 1945, the Mycroft & Moran imprint was launched for the publication of weird detective and mystery stories, including Derleth's Solar Pons series. The title of the imprint was inspired by characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories: Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes, and the villain Colonel Sebastian Moran. Some Mycroft and Moran titles since 1993 have also been issued by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.

Arkham also introduced Stanton & Lee Publishers in 1945 with the intention of publishing cartoons by Clare Victor Dwiggins. Stanton & Lee Publishers went on to publish poetry and the regional writings of August Derleth.

Additionally, August Derleth sub-contracted certain books which were nominally published by Arkham House to other publishers, including Pellegrini & Cudahy of New York, and Villiers Publications of England.

Bibliography of works published by Arkham House edit

2010s edit

2000s edit

1990s edit

1980s edit

1970s edit

1960s edit

1950s edit

1940s edit

1946 advertisement for Arkham House

1939 edit

References edit

  1. ^ Robert Weinberg, "Science Fiction Specialty Publishers" in Hall, Hal W. (ed). Science Fiction Collections: Fantasy, Supernatural and Weird Tales. Haworth Press, 1983, p. 126
  2. ^ Sam Moskowitz, "I Remember Derleth", Starship (Winter 1981), pp. 10–11
  3. ^ Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, Over My Shoulder: Reflections on a Science Fiction Era. Philadelphia: Oswald Train, Publisher, 1983, pp. 158–159
  4. ^ Robert Weinberg, "Science Fiction Specialty Publishers" in Hall, Hal W. (ed). Science Fiction Collections: Fantasy, Supernatural and Weird Tales. Haworth Press, 1983, p. 129
  5. ^ "THE LOVECRAFT EXPERT: AN INTERVIEW WITH S.T. JOSHI". Innsmouth Free Press. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  6. ^ Locus Publications (March 22, 2011). "Locus Online News » April R. Derleth (1954-2011)". Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  7. ^ Steven H Silver (March 22, 2011). "SF Site News » Obituary: April R. Derleth". Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  8. ^ Ian Randal Strock (March 22, 2011). "Publisher April R. Derleth Dies". SFScope.
  9. ^ "April Derleth - Summary Bibliography". Retrieved November 17, 2012.
  10. ^ "Longtime operator of publishing firm dies". The Sauk Prairie Eagle. March 28, 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2012.
Further Reading
  • Barrett, Mike. "Arkham House: Sundry Observations". Dark Horizons (Mar 2010); expanded reprint in his Doors to Elsewhere. Cheadle, Staffordshire UK: Alchemy Press, 2013, pp. 17–43.
  • Heffley, C. E. "Arkham House: A Remembrance" in David Barker, ed. The Lovecrafter - 100th Anniversary issue: An Anthology in Celebration of the Centennial of the Birth of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1990). Salem, OR: David Barker, 1990: 29–32.
  • Lorraine, Daniel W. "Collecting Lovecraft Arkhams". The New Lovecraft Collector No 1 (Winter 1993), p. 4.
  • Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd.
  • Jaffery, Sheldon (1989). The Arkham House Companion. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, Inc. ISBN 1-55742-005-X.
  • Joshi, S. T. (2009). Classics and Contemporaries: Some Notes on Horror Fiction. New York: Hippocampus Press. ISBN 978-0-9814888-3-7.. See "Arkham House and Its Legacy", pp 1–27.
  • Joshi, S. T. (1999). Sixty Years of Arkham House: A History and Bibliography. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-176-5.
  • Nielsen, Leon (2004). Arkham House Books: A Collector's Guide. Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-1785-4.

External links edit