Nicholas Cooper

It all started one snowy afternoon, I woke up from a deep slumber to see that the once beautiful world was now encapsulated with ice and snow. Treating it as if it was a museum exhibit of old man winter himself I resigned to my comfy nook to stay warm and take advantage of this forced solitude.

Figure 1. Judge a book by its cover.


Figure 2. Night Gaunts

I could have any book within my library but I chose the unassuming Necronomicon and with it comes an experience that no other medium can bring forth. A thick, almost textbook size collection, with unassuming text styling and pictures that without context would seem benign.

Although paper itself has a smell, taste and texture to it that can’t be replicated using any other style of medium, this book with its deep dark wrapping, and leather like texture is abrasive to the things we are used to experiencing. It being thicker than normal but still considered a paperback when comparing to other books creates a sense of uneasy curiosity, if it was something we already knew it would be much less effective at doing its job. Scrawled across it stands the titular title “Necronomicon” with a depiction of a large winged tentacle beast that only those familiar with the content will recognize as the great beast Cthulhu. The back only contains the words,

“Lovecraft opened the way for me, as he had done for others before me” – Stephen King

Knowing that the king of horror and psychological thrillers grew from the seed planted by this writer only furthers the idea that the things within are not for the faint of heart.

The book is separated into sections, each containing one of Lovecraft’s short stories, not being a chapter based or linear story allows the reader to jump around to different parts reading what strikes one’s interest. This helps slowly build an increasing interest on the contents, starting on one of the shorter stories like Dagon gives a small taste at what a much bigger tale would be like.

Even the first small poem at the beginning named Night Gaunts gives a taste of dread that lays deeper within the book, with an accompanying picture the text reads

“Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,

But every night I see the rubbery things,

Black, horned, and slender, with membranous wings,

They come in legions on the north wind’s swell

With obscene clutch that titulates and stings,

Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings

To grey worlds hidden deep in nightmare’s well.

Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,

Heedless of all the cries I try to make,

And down the nether pits to that foul lake

Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.

But ho! If only they would make some sound,

Or wear a face where faces should be found!”

Although only the first literature among many within the collection, this little poem drives home the feelings that is felt by many other characters throughout. It is the curiosity about what could happen and gaining answers to the strange and bizarre questions that grip at the reader and keep them interested. These themes are not only played out within the writing itself but with the packaging the writing comes in.

Playing on the curiosity and wonder that has plagued much of human history, the creators of this book knew how to take full advantage of this. If a reader had only passing knowledge of Lovecraft and what he was capable of, the unassuming texture and design would draw one in to what lay beneath the surface of this soft cover collection.

Now I could go on at length to what HP Lovecraft is able to do with his words and how no one has been able to properly morph or sculpt his children into something new and modern, but I just want to bring to light how something so unassuming could bring about a very meta horror story staring the reader. This book being a collection of his works, compliments what his works stood for and what they were all about.

The design of the cover plays very much into the very themes of the contents, the idea that human curiosity will always be the down fall for those who reach to far into that unknown void. Very unassuming but a little off putting with its texture and cryptic wording and imagery, it is ambiguous enough to draw a newcomer into its hold, while those who are well versed in its themes can pick it out of a crowd with one eye closed.

To do something like this with a different medium would be rather complicated, you would almost need a spy movie to come within a secret compartment within a nickel plated suitcase, or a world war two video game to come in a ammo crate of that era.This Lovecraftian collection is rather cheap and pulls this off with very little effort, it puts little work in for great gain. Higher end collector’s editions of books or games go to great lengths to create this kind of experience but have to reach so much further with much more flash and interactivity. If the Necronomicon was to go to such lengths as other medium have gone, you would have to be given a map from an old fisherman who would take you to an island and find a dusty old manuscript written in blood. If the creators were to create something flashy and highly decorated, it would pull from the wonder and imagination that fills the gaps created from something very unassuming.

If the initial presentation is pushed too far toward being overly interactive and in your face or the other way toward being quite minimalistic can draw the audience away and get in the way for experiencing the substance that lays within. It is very much a thin line to walk and with the right marketing team can enhance the experiences or fill in the missing senses that a artistic package cannot bring forth.

Although we have been taught since our eyes could recognize language and begin building worlds within ourselves, we have been taught not to judge a book by its cover. Sometimes though its what is wanted from us, and to bring to life a part of a story with the bindings itself is very impressive. HP Lovecraft’s Necronomicon does this very well and while keeping with the general theme and idea of what resides within, slowly drawing a reader toward its pages and closing in around them to digest them into being part of itself.