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Created: February 2017
| Updated: February 2017
Arkham House is a publishing house specializing in weird fiction founded in Sauk City, Wisconsin in 1939 by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to preserve in hardcover the best fiction of H. P. Lovecraft. The company's name is derived from Lovecraft's fictional New England city, Arkham. Arkham House editions are noted for the quality of their printing and binding. The colophon for Arkham House was designed by Frank Utpatel.
Derleth was the guiding force behind Arkham House, financing the company and, after Wandrei resigned his interest in the firm after World War II, serving as sole editor and publisher.
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 addition to volumes of H. P. Lovecraft's fiction, Arkham House published a five volume edition of Lovecraft's Selected Letters 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).
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.
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 the core Lovecraft collections issued in the 1960s - Dagon and Other Macabre Tales, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels 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. There are multiple printings of the following books: New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos ed by Ramsey Campbell; Necropolis by Basil Copper; The Wind from a Burning Woman by Greg Bear and The Jaguar Hunter by Lucius Shepard.
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. 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.
April became president of Arkham House in 2002, having appointed Peter Ruber as her consulting editor and successor to James Turner. She made the house’s mission a return to classic weird fiction, which Ruber sought to do. Ruber drew criticism for the hostile opinions of various authors he expressed in his story introductions within Arkham's Masters of Horror (2000). Rumours of his ill-health circulated for some time and it appears his editorial duties at Arkham House lapsed due to this.
The house's publishing schedule slowed considerably between 2000-2006, 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).
No books were issued under Arkham House's sole imprint after 2006. Books had previously published in almost every year since 1939 (except for 1940 and 1955/56), so the four-year gap 2006-10 could be seen to mark the lowest point thus far in Arkham House's publishing fortunes.
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 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 ed (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.
April Derleth died March 21, 2011. 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.
George Vanderburgh's blog at Battered Silicon Dispatch Box announced a number of Arkham House titles for 2011 and after, none of which had appeared as of April, 2014. The announced titles are:
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 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 Villiers Publications of England, and Pelligrini and Cudahy of New York.