Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, December 23, 2021


 The Arkam Sampler, Volume 1, Number 1:  Winter 1948, edited by August Derleth.

Arkham House, the legendary publisher of the fantastic, was created by August Derleth and Donald A. Wandrei to preserve the stories of H. P. Lovecraft after his death.  Their first publication was a Lovecraft collection, The Outsider and Others (1939).  Eventually, they would go on to publish all of Lovecraft's fiction plus five hefty volumes of his letters.  To keep the nascent firm afloat, their second title was a collection of Derleth's weird stories, followed by a collection of stories from Clark Ashton Smith, one of Lovecraft's many correspondents.  A second Lovecraft volume followed in 1943, then, in rapid fire, collections by Wandrei, Henry S. Whitehead, and a second collection by Smith before a third collection of Lovecraft's tales appeared -- all in 1944.  Arkham House gained a solid reputation as quality purveyor of the fantastic.  It's early books demand high prices n the collectable market, and it is safe to say that if there were no Arkham House, Lovecraft would never have become the household name and cultural phenomena that he now is.

But Arkham House was a small press with relatively small press runs.  The Outsider and Others had a press run of 1268 copies and, at a hefty list price for the time of $5.00 ($3.50 for pre-orders), the 553-page book took four slow years to sell out of its only printing.  Arkham House was a smll [ortion of Derleth's professional career; it, like his later poetry magazine Hawk and Whippoorwill, was a labor of love and Derleth was hard-pressed to keep the firm financially afloat, going so far as to mortgage his home to the limit.  After publishing 27 books -- including the first books by Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and Fritz Leiber, Jr., and stand-out collections from J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Frenk Belknap Long, Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, Robert E. Howard, H. Russell Wakefield, and Carl Jacobi, as well as A. E. van Vogt's classic science fiction novel Slan -- Derleth deccided to publish a quarterly magazine that would appeal to readers of Arkham House books.

The Arkham Sampler was first planned for one year and would continue into a second year if there was enough demand.  The first issue contained a four-part serialization of Lovecraft's short novel "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath," which Derleth had first pubished in the now out-of-print Beyond the Wall of Sleep, hoping this would be an added inducement to keep the magazine running for the first year.  The Arkham Sampler lasted for two years (eight issues), ending with the Autumn 1949 number.  In 1967, Derleth would publish another magazine, The Arkham Collector, running for ten issues from Summer 1967 to Summer 1971; this magazine, smaller and more geared to Arkham House publications than the earlier magazine, was designed to replace the publisher's bulletins announcing new titles from Arkham House; still, as with the Sampler, the Collector included fiction, poetry, and articles, along with news of Arkham House.  In 2010, Arkham House would issued the complete Arkham Sampler in one volume through The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box publishing house; they followed it with a one-volume collection of the complete Arkham Collector.  Both volumes carried a hefty price tag.

The Arkham Sampler was a digest-size magazine of 100 pages with no illustrations.  For one interested "Lamiain the literature of the weird, the first issue (as well as those which followed) is a fascinating to read 74 years on as it must bave been when it was first printed.  

The contents:

  • "Messrs. Turkes and Talbot" by H. Russell Wakefield (from Nash's -- Pall Mall Magazine, February 1932; reprinted in Wakefield's 1932 collection Ghost Stories; Arkham House published two collections by Wakefield)
  • "History and Chronology of the Necronomicon Together with Some Pertinent Paragraphs" by H. P. Lovecraft, with commentary by August Derleth (original to this volume)
  • "Lamia" by Clark Ashton Smith (apparently an original poem, later to be reprinted in Smith's poetry collections The Dark Chateau and Other Poems, 1951, and Collected Poems, 1971)
  • "The Nameless Wraith" by Clark Ashton Smith (apparently an original poem, later to be reprinted in Smith's poetry collections Spells and Philters, 1958, and Collected Poems, 1971)
  • "The City of Destruction" by Clark Ashton Smith (apparently an origional poem, later to be reprinted in Smith's Collected Poems, 1971)
  • "Introduction to Strange Ports of Call by August Derleth (a variant of the introduction to Derleth's anthology Strange Ports of Call, 1948)
  • "A Little Anthology" by Malcolm Ferguson (original to this volume; a collection of miscellany of interest to Arkham House readers; meant to be part of a book to be published by Arkham House with a planned title of Macabre:  A Little Anthology:  never published)
  • "Mara" by "Stephen Grendon" (August Derleth) (original story to this volume; later reprinted in the "Stephen Grendon" book Mr. George and Other Odd Persons, 1963)
  • "A Hornbook for Witches" by Leah Bodine Drake (poem original to this volume; later reprinted in her poetry collection A Hornbook for Witches, 1950)
  • "Checklist:  The Carvings of Clark Ashton Smith" (uncredited; a listing of known weird carvings by writer/poet/artist Smith; a hard-to-appreciate checklist with no description or photos of the works **sigh**)
  • "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, Part 1" by H. P. Lovecraft (in four parts; Dunsanyan fantasy that first appeared in Beyond the Wall of Sleep, 1943; this features Randolph Carter, who appears in three -- or is it four? -- stories by Lovecraft)
  • "Two Novels and an Anthology" by August Delerth (reviews of Greener Than You Think  by Ward Moore, Zotz! by Walter Karig, and Men Into Beasts:  Strange Tales of Transformstion, edited by A. C. Spectorsky, all 1947; despite some nitpicking Derleth liked the Moore, detested the Karig, and praised the anthology)
  • "From the Fan Presses" by August Derleth (reviews of The Forbidden Garden by "John Taine" (Eric Temple Bell), Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith, Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss, and Of Worlds Beyond:  The Science of Science-Fiction Writing, edited by Lloyd Arthur Eschbach; all 1947; Derleth liked the Taine and the Smith, thought the Serviss was a bit creaky but imteresting historically, and highly recommended Eshbach's symposium.)
  • "The Shasta Checklist" by August Derleth (a review of The Checklist of Fantastic Fiction, Everett Bleiler and Melvin Korshak, an importaan, albeit incomplete. reference book)
  • "Through a Glass, Darkly" by Robert Bloch (reviews of three Arkham House books:  Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury, Revelations in Black by Carl Jacobi, and Night's Black Agents by Fritz Leiber, Jr.; all 1947; Good stuff all, according to Bloch, and I doubt any would disagree)
  • "A Thorne Off the Old Smith" by Robert Bloch (review of The Grass Is Always Greener by George Malcolm-Smith. 1947: Blocj considered this the best of the "Thorne Smith" fantasy clones)
  • "Three Anthologies" by John Haley (reviews of The Night Side:  Masterpieces of the Strange and Terrible and The Sleeping and the Dead:  30 Uncanny  Tales, both edited by August Derleth, as well as the "Alfred Hitcock" edited The Fireside Book of Suspense; all 1947; all three important collections although, as noted, the Hitchcock includes a number of non-genre stories)
  • "Short Notices" (uncredited brief reviews of The Scarf by Robert Bloch, The American Imagination at Work:  Tall Tales and Folk Tales by Ben C. Clough; Mrs. Candy and Saturday Night by Robert Tallant, The Enchanted Book by Alice Dalgliesh, Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein, The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells, Windwagon Smith and Other Yarns by Wilbur Schramm, Two Came to Town by Simeon Strunsky, and The Flames by Olaf Stapledon; all 1947 editions; an interesting choice of books with something to please everyone.  1947 was a golden year for lovers of the fantastic)
  • "Editorial Commentary" (uncredited discusions of books available and in low stock at Arkham House, details about The Arkham Sampler, and general news and information)

Fun and interesting and -- dare I say? -- addictive.

All eight issues of The Arkham Sampler are available to read on the internet.

1 comment: