When the stars are right: H.P. Lovecraft’s astronomical manuscript added to Distinctive Collections
The latest manuscript added to Villanova University’s Distinctive Collections is the rare astronomical observation notebook by the noted horror author H.P. Lovecraft from the years 1909-1915. Observing from his Providence, Rhode Island home, Lovecraft noted, and then drew, various celestial phenomena including passing comets.
The notable Lovecraft story, The Colour Out of Space, published in September 1927 in Amazing Stories features a malevolent entity from space, and perhaps influenced from a comet or meteorite Lovecraft observed and depicted in his own hand in this manuscript; a film adaption of this story, Color out of Space, staring the prolific Nicolas Cage is currently in theaters.
Lovecraft’s stories were most notably featured in his lifetime in the pulp magazine Weird Tales, along with other authors such as Robert Howard (author of the Conan stories) and Clark Ashton Smith.
The October 1949 issue of the rare publication The Lovecraft Collector featured a partial transcription of the manuscript, by the then-owner David Keller, but this merely whetted the appetite of scholars eager to fully examine the manuscript which had been in private collections and unavailable for access.
The manuscript is currently on display in the Rare Book Room of Falvey Memorial Library along with supplemental materials through October. Slated for digitization in November and full transcription by a notable Lovecraft scholar soon after, this manuscript will bring added attention to astronomy on campus by documenting a notable American amateur astronomer’s work observing the heavens, especially given the significance of Villanova University’s Department of Astrophysics & Planetary Science and their open public observatory.
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It is delightful to see this notebook reappear, and even better to learn that its contents will be made public. That is particularly true since the few previously published excerpts from the notebook contain transcription errors, i.e. “Ten” for “Ter[restrial]” and “Am Exh. & Want Almanac” for “American Eph. & Naut. Almanac”!