As recently as our last post, we described the excitement we feel when an interesting item from our collections is brought to our attention by a reader or customer. Another such case has emerged this week: a visitor from Massachusetts asked to see a series of books held in our Special Collections that touched on the themes of his research – namely, ancient deities and religions. While fetching the specific items our visitor had requested, we chanced upon another volume sitting alongside those other books; figuring our customer might find it of interest, we returned with this item in addition to the ones originally requested.
Our visitor was immediately taken with the mystery item and insisted on our looking through it with him. At first glance, there was nothing too unusual about the book. The black frontage gave a slightly ominous look to the binding but no title could be seen on the book’s spine. The title page gave nothing more away: closely-printed text in the Old Gothick script gave the title as both the Arabic “Al Azif” and the Greek “νεκρός νόμος εικών” (possibly translating as “Nekros Nomos Eikon”, or “Image of the Law of the Dead”).
No further information was given as to the contents and no author named. Scrawled on the title page in Mss. script was the name Joseph Curwen; however, no further information about Curwen, the provenance of the book or its arrival in our collections could be traced: a catalogue search returned no results and even a thorough reading of the library’s Annual Reports could uncover no mention of its acquisition by previous librarians. The book has only been consulted once – in 1922. A small note can be seen next to that date – “hpl” – but we have not yet been able to decipher its meaning beyond a suggestion that it stands for “Hamilton Public Library”, perhaps the book’s previous home.
All that we know of the book, then, is contained within its weird and uncanny pages. Split into three sections – broadly covering (so far as we can tell) Ancient Beings, Human-Animal Hybrids and Signs of Magick & Physicks – the book and its true purpose remains a mystery; who – or what – is being described in these words and images is far beyond our comprehension. Some representative selections from the work can be seen below:
Human-Animal Hybrids etc.
Any readers of this blog who feel they can add something to our meagre knowledge of this extremely disturbing text should contact either the library or our eminent visitor: Dr. Henry Armitage, Chief Librarian of the Miskatonic University.
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Nice try, Leeds librarians but you didn’t fool me with this Lovecraft spoof! Just out of interest, where did you source the illustrations from?
Very well-spotted! The illustrations were taken from a series of books in our Special Collections, most of which related to the natural world (mainly from the 18th and 19th-centuries).
We will be revealing the identity of our Lovecraft-pretender texts in the coming mid-week.