An interesting and carefully crafted new undergraduate dissertation, “A Density of Meaning”: Literary Representations of the British Museum, 1818-1929, which may interest some readers and Mythos writers seeking background research…

Since its establishment in 1753, The British Museum has become one of the iconic museums of the world. It is the home of countless treasures of the ancient world, including the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Assyrian Lamassu. Due to the large shadow it casts, the British Museum appears in unexpected places, including literature. Various authors and poets have interacted with the British Museum in their writing, both upholding and reworking its different meanings and processes.”

Sadly the author didn’t unearth that Lovecraft placed a copy of The Necronomicon in the British Museum Library (later known as the British Library). Lovecraft implies its presence there in “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”…

Letters soon told of his safe arrival, and of his securing good quarters in Great Russell Street, London; where he proposed to stay, shunning all family friends, till he had exhausted the resources of the British Museum in a certain direction. [then followed] his departure for Paris, to which he had before made one or two flying trips for material in the Bibliotheque Nationale.” (“The Case of Charles Dexter Ward”, 1927)

In his “The History of the Necronomicon” he was privately more explicit…

Of the Latin texts [of The Necronomicon] now existing one (15th cent.) is known to be in the British Museum under lock and key” (“The History of the Necronomicon”, 1927)

Then he was more publically explicit in “The Dunwich Horror”…

Correspondence with the Widener Library at Harvard, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the British Museum, the University of Buenos Ayres, and the Library of Miskatonic University at Arkham had failed to get him the loan of a book he desperately wanted” (“The Dunwich Horror”, 1928)

Lovecraft never had the funds to visit London for himself, but he heard from others as they passed through. Galpin, for instance…

The card from antique Londinium duly came, & filled me with envy at your opportunity to behold civilisation’s capital, if only for a single full day. If I were in Europe, I would devote not less than 2 or 3 weeks to London — & might not get outside of Britain at all. The British Museum card surely reveals one of my (or Klarkash-Ton’s or Sonny Belknap’s) extra-human monsters in disguise — indeed, I am positive that this entity reached Java as a relique of sunken Mu, or of the still more monstrous & fabulous R’lyeh! Thanks!” (Lovecraft, on receiving a postcard from the British Museum, 1932. Letter to Alfred Galpin, 28th August 1932)

javanshadowAbove: Javanese shadow puppet at the British Museum, possibly the sort of art Lovecraft was referring to.

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