The Inspiration for The Nameless City in The Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights

Doing a little digging for my annotations: HPL’s “The Nameless City” was published in 1921, and Howard Carter had not yet found KIng Tut’s tomb, so we can’t blame Egyptomaina for the story (which I quite like, incidentally).

The most likely source of inspiration is The Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights. Checking the contents of the English translations, we find a short story about Irem, a long-deserted wealthy metropolis smote by God (shades of The Doom That Came to Sarnath?) and a more obscure story called “The City of Brass” which contains (among other elements) an ‘archaeological’ expedition across the Sahara to find an ancient lost city, a mummified queen and petrified inhabitants.

I present them here, for the interested reader:

The City of Irem

The City of Brass (summary)

The City of Brass (full)

“…and there came to the builders’ hands of all these things so great a quantity as may neither be told nor imagined.”

–Payne’s translation, The City of Irem

Earlier, the narrator counted one thousand trillion (people) (using 100K x 100K x 100K), so this number must have been pretty high indeed :)

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Arthur Jermyn: A Jermyn Family Tree

I’ve been alternating between annotating Arthur Jermyn, The Nameless City (version 2!) and The Call of Cthulhu.

The Wikipedia pages for Arthur Jermyn has a rudimentary family tree, and I thought that would be a good idea to add to my annotated edition. Here’s most of the information I was able to glean from the story:

Continue reading “Arthur Jermyn: A Jermyn Family Tree”

A Word on My H. P. Lovecraft Annotations

Had some spare time today, and rather than revise my Nameless City, I took a look at Arthur Jermyn (link contains spoilers!), and started to add footnotes to that. I’m two pages in and I have 14 footnotes so far. That suggests approximately 160 footnotes for this story!

The real enemy is “editorial fatigue.” That’s a term used in textual analysis to refer to instances where an editor (in this case, me) over time becomes less diligent / observant while revising or editing a document. In the modern era, this is less of a problem, but when scribes were copying and revising a document entirely by hand, it would be nearly impossible to go back to an already written section and revise it a second time to amend a mistake due to ‘editorial fatigue.’

It’s possible this technique might be used in analysis of HPL’s own works, as he would have been writing them out by hand, and then revising them by hand and finally typing them up on a typewriter. If we have something unusual or that doesn’t match (the previous text / chapter / section) showing up later in a story, the principle of editorial fatigue suggests that it is in fact a trace of the original text, accidentally overlooked during the editing process.

Anyways, back on topic: annotating takes an enormous amount of time: not only do I have to typeset the entire story, but I have to re-read it, identify ‘suspect’ words, phrases or names, look them up and occasionally condense the definitions.

I have The Call of Cthulhu annotated, but I’d like to go through it again before I release it to the public. If I recall correctly, it was something like 50 pages with 100+ footnotes, a number that now seems small in comparison to The Nameless City. It’s anyone’s guess as to what will be released next, and when.

H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City” Annotated

I have taken the liberty of annotating (footnoting, actually) HPL’s “The Nameless City,” in fixed-layout PDF format.

Hopefully, I’ve caught most, if not all of the British-isms and archaic spellings and obscure references. This is deliberately designed for someone less familiar with HPL’s British spellings and obscure words (“vigintillion” for example). May be useful for English Second Language (ESL) students?

I thought I’d try out my scholarship on this lesser-known story, rather than having a go at “The Call of Cthulhu” first.

111 footnotes on 25 pages.

Please let me know what you think.

Nameless City