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The Necronomicon (Greek: Νεκρονόμικον) is a fictional book of magic invented by H. P. Lovecraft, which frequently features in his Cthulhu Mythos tales. Lovecraft cites the meaning of the title as being derived from Greek language nekros (corpse), nomos (law), eikon (image): "An image of the law of the dead". A more prosaic (but probably more correct) translation, is via a declination of nemo (to consider): "Concerning the dead". Another interpretation that can be made of the origin of the name is "Knowledge of the Dead", from Greek 'Nekrós', corpse, dead, and 'Gnomein', to know, what seems to fit better with the subject treated in the book.

Greek editions of Lovecraft's works have commented that in Greek the word can have several different meanings when broken at its roots. More specifically:

  • Necro-Nomicon - The Book of the Law of the Dead, derived from Nomicon (Book of Law).
  • Necro-Nomo-icon - The Book of Dead Laws.
  • Necr- Onom-icon - The Book of Dead Names , derived from onoma (name).
  • Necro-Nomo-Icon - Image of the Law of the Dead.
  • Necrό-Nomo-Icon - Law of Dead Images

According to Lovecraft's account the original, called Al Azif, (the sound of nocturnal insects, said in folklore to be the conversation of demons), was written by the mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred, and contains an account of the Old Ones, their history, and descriptions of how they may be summoned. A number of translations were made over the centuries - the Elizabethan magician, John Dee was supposed (by Lovecraft) to have possessed a copy. The book is now mentioned in various places in fiction but always as being very rare; there are copies in the British Museum, the Sorbonne, and the library of Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. The book, like other fictional works such as The King in Yellow is dangerous to read, being almost inevitably destructive of one's health and sanity, and is kept under lock and key in these libraries.

Many later fantasy and horror writers have mentioned the Necronomicon in their own stories: two examples are a passage in Gene Wolfe's novel Peace, in which a book of necromancy being forged by a character is not named, but is obviously the Necronomicon, and Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's humorous version, the Necrotelicomnicon[?] (the book of phone numbers of the dead).

Even though Lovecraft himself insisted the book was pure invention (and other writers invented passages from the book in their own works), there are accounts of some people actually believing the Necronomicon to be a real book. This issue was confused in the late 1970s by the publication of a book purporting to be a translation of the "real" Necronomicon. This book, by the pseudonymic "Simon", published by Schlangekraft and then in Avon paperback, attempted to connect the fictional Lovecraft mythology to Sumerian Mythology. While not completely made up (indeed, several Babylonian deities are mentioned), the Necronomicons connection to historical Sumerian Mythology is fully a product of Lovecraft's imagination.

Various writers in the school of the Cthulhu Mythos have 'quoted' from the Necronomicon, amongst them Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth.

Necronomicon was also the title of a 1980s book of paintings by the Swiss artist H. R. Giger; it was a quite appropriate title for his particularly sinister style of blended machinery and flesh.

In Sam Raimi's popular trilogy of movies Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness the Necronomicon Ex Mortis appears as an evil book of magic; in the first Evil Dead, a recording of an academic reading from the Necronomicon caused all of Ash's later trouble. In the Evil Dead mythology, this book was written three thousand years ago and disappeared circa 1300 AD.

Science fiction author Neal Stephenson based the title of his book Cryptonomicon on the Necronomicon featured in the Evil Dead movies, not knowing that the name had originated with H. P. Lovecraft.

Further reading

see also: false document

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