This article is written by Lovecraft eZine Podcast panelist Matthew Carpenter.
NOTE: Please note the hyperlinks for Necronomicon Press in this article. Since NP is offline, I (Mike Davis) have linked to an Amazon search for the Press so that you can buy past chapbooks and more. (Also, please note this eBay search.)
The other day, I read a post from the artist Robert Knox stating that Necronomicon Press would not be accepting any new orders, and that they would be refunding money on pending orders. Unexpectedly I was overcome with nostalgia (I heard the news today, oh boy…). Necronomicon Press has been a part of my life almost ever since I started reading Lovecraftian fiction. Is this the end of a venerable and very important small press?
The very first World Fantasy Convention was held in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1975. A young enthusiast named Marc Michaud discovered some astronomy articles by Lovecraft that had never been reprinted. In honor of the convention, he somehow convinced the Kent County Daily Times to print one of them. He then took copies of the paper to the convention and handed them out to interested parties.
The resounding feedback was that there needed to be a small press that could champion such publications. Marc got some support from his brother Paul and opened Necronomicon Press in 1976. In this way, he became intimately involved with the latest Lovecraft circle, and was a member of the Providence pals (that group of fans, scholars, authors, and artists who were in Providence in the early 1980s, who did so much of the work our current community is founded upon). Marc published the very first journal devoted to critical scholarship, Lovecraft Studies, edited by his friend S.T. Joshi. When Robert Price needed a home for Crypt of Cthulhu he turned to Marc Michaud and Necronomicon Press for most of its run. The artists Jason Eckhardt and Robert Knox almost became house artists for the small press, and served it for decades. As recently as 2019 Marc partnered with Jason and ST to produce the delightful H.P. Lovecraft Cat Book, a must have for anyone who shares the Old Gent’s fascination with cats. The importance of this press was recognized with the World Fantasy Award in 1994 and 1996, and the British Fantasy Award in 1995. For authors writing pastiches there was never a more useful book than The Chronology Out of Time by Peter Cannon. This clever book gives a timeline of dates that appear in Lovecraft’s stories, so you can make sure your tie-ins mesh with the originals.
Anecdotes abound, but this is my favorite:
The church that Lovecraft used as inspiration for “The Haunter of the Dark” was St. John’s Roman Catholic Church in Federal Hill, Providence. He could see it from his window on College Hill as he worked. Unfortunately, it was demolished around 1992. Marc Michaud was living in the area and heard the news. He went to the site and saw piles of bricks strewn about, awaiting removal. The church was gone, never to return, so Marc did what any maniacal Lovecraft fanatic would do: He proceeded to cart trunkloads of bricks back to his home! (I wonder what his wife had to say about this master plan?) After that, for years Necronomicon Press gave away bricks to fans and special customers. When I met Mr. Michaud in 2015, where he was hawking a new booklet of The Colour Out of Space (illustrated by Jason Eckhardt) at NecronomiCon, there were still a few bricks left!
Not everything was easy. A small press hardly ever makes any money; this was a labor of love for Marc. A flood of his residence in 2010 destroyed most of his stock. The value was calculated at over $20,000. I think there were old rarities that would have brought much more on the secondary markets. This setback was not quite a deathblow and Necronomicon Press eventually reopened. For decades, Marc was a friendly face at conventions, willing to talk to anyone and trying to help out the weird fiction community. But, like all of us inevitably, he ultimately had to make the decision to retire. In 2013, when I stopped by their table at NecronomiCon he was telling visitors that his daughter was going to assume the reins of running the company. Since the flood, things were not really the same. Now there are more small presses doing the same work. And without Mr. Michaud it has been very hard to sustain any sort of publication schedule.
It makes me melancholy, much like what happened to Arkham House after April Derleth died.
So the post by Robert Knox reminds me of everything I loved about Necronomicon Press. And we, all of us Lovecraftians, owe an inestimable debt to Marc Michaud. Spare him a thought as you sit down in your easy chair with a glass of sherry and your copy of Midnight Shambler.
Thanks, Marc. Thanks for the memories.
By Matthew Carpenter
Search for Necronomicon Press on Amazon or on eBay.
Beautiful tribute! Mark was a true contributor to the revival of all things Lovecraftian.
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