Recently cataloged by Lloyd Currey and John Knott, the David H. Rajchel Arkham House Archive is one of the most impressive and important collections of material related to fantastic fiction to ever be offered publicly for sale. Consisting of over 4,000 individual items, the 95-page calendar of the archive, available for download at L. W. Currey, Inc., is a virtual who’s who in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. David Rajchel purchased the materials in the archive over the years from April Derleth, August Derleth’s daughter, and in some cases, he prevented important documents in which the Wisconsin Historical Society took no interest from being recycled or thrown out.
August Derleth’s contributions to the field of weird fiction as an editor and publisher are well known. Derleth and his business partner, Donald Wandrei, preserved the legacy of H. P. Lovecraft with the publication of The Outsider and Others in 1939 and did the same for Robert E. Howard with Skull-Face and Others in 1946. In addition to publishing the first collections of short fiction by such luminaries as Ray Bradbury, and Fritz Leiber, Arkham House brought the work of William Hope Hodgson to an American audience with the publication of The House on the Borderland and Other Novels in 1945. Derleth’s practice of introducing writers of weird fiction from the UK to a broader audience continued throughout his career and included Marjorie Bowen, J. S. Le Fanu, Margery Lawrence, M. P. Shiel, and H. R. Wakefield.
Even a cursory glance at the items contained in the David H. Rajchel Arkham House Archive quickly demonstrates that Derleth’s influence extended well beyond Arkham House. His landmark science fiction and fantasy anthologies of the 1940s and 1950s, many published by Pellgrini and Cudhay, brought Derleth into contact with most of the major authors of fantastic fiction of his day, such as Charles Beaumont, Robert Bloch, Robert Heinlein, Henry Kuttner, Frederik Pohl, Clifford Simak, and Theodore Sturgeon. The archive also extensively documents Derleth’s work with the TV and film industry, including properties that Derleth developed for Revue Productions, including H. R. Wakefield’s “Farewell Performance” and William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki story “The Whistling Room.”
While no summary can do justice to the scope and depth of the archive, notable highlights include
· H. R. Wakefield’s handwritten manuscript for “A Man’s Best Friend,” a story which would not see the light of day until the 2000 Ash-Tree Press collection Reunion at Dawn
· 38 poems by Clark Ashton Smith, all typewritten, most signed with corrections in Smith’s own hand
· Page proofs for H. P. Lovecraft’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep and Marginalia
· Letters to Derleth from Robert Aickman, Marjorie Bowen, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey Campbell, Mary Elizabeth Counselman, L. P. Hartley, Fritz Leiber, Margery Lawrence, Walter de la Mare, John Metcalfe, and M. P. Shiel
· Photographs of the members of the entire Weird Tales circle, including a snapshot of Robert E. Howard signed in pencil “R.E.H” on the back.
Anyone interested in gaining more insight into Arkham House and August Derleth is strongly encouraged to visit L. W. Currey, Inc. to read Lloyd Currey’s introduction to the archive and to download the complete calendar of the archive. The archive is illustrated by a number of fascinating photographs of select material. We will not see its like again.