The Shadow Over Innsmouth (First Edition) by H.P. Lovecraft
The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a science fiction/fantasy horror novella by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). The first edition of this work was published in 1936 by William L. Crawford’s Visionary Publishing Company. Background
The Shadow over Innsmouth was written in 1931. Lovecraft was much influenced by a story called The Harbour Master by Robert W. Chambers, as well as an Irvin S. Cobb Story called Fishhead. These tell of amphibious humans, monstrous figures with resemblances to fish.
This was the only work to be published in Lovecraft’s lifetime in book form and not first in a periodical.
Plot, Characters, Themes
The plot revolves around the discovery of a hybrid race of half human and half fish/frog-like creature living in the dilapidated coastal town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts.
The story begins with an account of a secret governmental investigation into the town. It is clear this investigation was carried out as a result of the story about to be told by the narrator. He visited the town of Innsmouth from a perspective of architectural interest, but found it to be crumbling and inhabited by slightly odd looking people.
The narrator visits an old local named Zadok. He tells him of the fish-frog men, the Deep Ones, who live in the sea. They offer fish and gold in return for human sacrifice. They mate with humans to create fish-frog-human offspring that live forever.
The narrator considers the story a little unsettling but does not believe a word of it. He is forced to stay in the town that night as his bus has broken down. In the night, someone tries to get into his room. He escapes through a window, and pretends to be an Innsmouth local by imitating their strange shambling walks. He finds some train tracks, upon which he hears creature moving about. He hides, and when he sees the fish-frog creatures, he faints.
The narrator awakes, unharmed, and escapes to the next town. He researches his family tree, and discovers that he is a descendent of the founder of Innsmouth, Obed Marsh. Gradually the narrator realises that he is changing into one of the fish-frog men. He comes to accept it, and plans to move to the city beneath the sea, along with a cousin also transformed, at present in a mental hospital.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American fantasy, horror, and science fiction author. Many of the archetypes of horror and science fiction come from his writing. Many refer to his genre as ‘weird fiction, Lovecraft called it ‘cosmic horror’.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
The first edition was published in a run of only 200 copies, and therefore these are very rare and valuable.
Copies are worth infinitely more when they retain their original dust jackets, which were illustrated by Frank Utpatel. There are also four illustrations by Utpatel within.
First edition copies (1936) were sold at Bloomsbury Auctions for $3,200 in November 2007, by Heritage Auctions for $5,676 in April 2007 and $7,170 in September 2011, and by Sothebys for $14,400 in December 2006.
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