An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia  by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. Westport, Connecticut : Greenwood Press, 2001. xx, 339 pp. ISBN 0-313-31578-7 $75.00

Lovecraft’s Library : A Catalog. Revised and Enlarged  by S. T. Joshi. New York : Hippocampus Press, 2002 175 pp. (981 items). ISBN 0-9673215-7-3 $15.00

Reviewed by Henry Wessells

 

To produce an Encyclopedia is essentially a political act : to strike a spark into the tinder-dry edifice of the ancien régime  (in the case of Diderot and his contemporaries) ; to assert the sum of learning with the elegantly phrase, patriarchal arrogance of empire (here I'm thinking of the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica ) ; or, in more recent memory, to throw open the doors of the labyrinth and propose a complex new way of approaching the literature of the fantastic (in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy ). The consequences of these acts are not to be disputed ; what differs is chiefly a matter of scale or scope. It is not unreasonable to look to these three instances as benchmarks for examining different aspects of another encyclopedia. Other criteria will also suggest themselves.
The appearance of An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia  with the imprint of a noted scholarly publisher is an event that might still have seemed impossible a decade ago. It is cause for celebration in Lovecrafty circles, no doubt, but this must not preclude a clear-headed assessment of how well the book achieves its stated aims and how useful an encyclopedia it is.
In their introduction, Joshi and Schultz note the “ marked rise in Lovecraft’s literary recognition as a writer, thinker, and man of letters ” as a result of the scholarship of the past decades : “ it is in the hope that a gathering of widely dispersed information on Lovecraft will engender even more penetrating scholarship and also provide Lovecraft’s many devotees with the tools for a more informed appreciation of his work that the present volume has been assembled. ”
The Encyclopedia provides main entries on Lovecraft’s literary works and brief biographical sketches of persons who figured in his private and literary life (also a handful of writers whose work influenced Lovecraft : Bierce, Dunsany, Machen, Poe, Blackwood). “ Lovecraft is best known for his tales of horror and the supernatural ; accordingly, the compilers have provided detailed plot synopses of every fictional work — stories, sketches, collaborative works, ‘ revisions ’ or ghostwritten tales — written by Lovecraft from the age of seven until his death.” Entries also include story length, dates of composition and publication, and citation to the corrected text. When a manuscript exists, its institutional location is cited. Poetry, essays, and letters are given more selective coverage. In each entry,