Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lovecraftiana: William Crawford

One of the first specialty science fiction publishers was William Crawford. Below is a recently seen piece of ephemera that links Crawford's 1935 Fantasy Publishing Company with his slightly later Visionary Publishing Company. It was the Visionary Publishing Company which published Lovecraft's THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH in 1936.

It was uncovered by Lee Ballentine of Denver CO 80209 and is being auctioned on ebay (as of May 11, 2006)

This item must date from 1935 or 1936. In 1935, Crawford had begun publishing and first issued MARS MOUNTAIN by Eugene George Key and MEN OF AVALON/THE WHITE SYBIL by David Keller and Clark Ashton Smith.

The imprint--or publishing name used on these two titles was `Fantasy Pubs.' and the city of publication, Everett, Pennsylvania. This is what might be called PHASE I of the Crawford publishing adventure.

PHASE II involved a magazine called MARVEL TALES. The auction house speculates that based on the evidence of the item the publishing entity had become Fantasy Publishing Company.

Very soon, in 1936, PHASE III would start under the new name Visionary Publishing Company. Visionary would go on to issue only two titles, first, Peter Reynolds (pseud. of Amelia Reynolds Long and William Crawford) BEHIND THE EVIDENCE, and second, H.P. Lovecraft THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, the only Lovecraft title to be published in the author's lifetime (if you accept the notion that THE SHUNNED HOUSE was not actually `published' in 1928 as the few copies bound then were given away--not offered for sale--and that the sale of 50 sets of unbound sheets by Barlow did not really constitute publication either).

Clay Ferguson--whose name appears on the item --was the artist who designed the cover of BEHIND THE EVIDENCE--the first Visionary Publishing Company title.

This is apparently an original piece of unused stationery for `FANTASY PUBLISHING COMPANY, Everett, PA., Editor: Wm L. Crawford -- Art: Clay Ferguson''--a kind of snapshot of the transition from Fantasy Pubs. to Visionary--still using the Fantasy name but crediting Ferguson, the designer of the first Visionary cover.

They state that the reference to Everett, PA brings to mind the legendary `attic in Everett' in which most copies of Lovecraft's strange little INNSMOUTH book perished from wet, weather, and neglect.

The item obviously is a survivor of that attic!

It's stated to be 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch unused stationery page watermarked with a crescent moon symbol, `ALGERIAN BOND', and `RAG CONTENT' It is darkening a bit at the edges and corners after nearly 70 years.

Generally though, it's claimed to be in astonishingly good shape.

The printing has left a physical impression in the paper, so it was probably printed in Linotype. Very few of these can possibly have survived.

The items were held in the estate of publisher William Crawford, who was active in specialty science fiction publishing of books and magazines from about 1934 until the late 1970s, and was purchased by the auction house from his wife Peggy Crawford in the 1980s.

Crawford published and produced books under a variety of names and imprints, including Fantasy Pubs. of Everett Pennsylvania, Visionary Publishing Company, Fantasy Publishing Co. Inc. (FPCI), Griffin Publishing Company, Carcosa House, Fantasy Book, Coven 13, Witchcraft and Sorcery, Spaceway, and others.

The auction house acquired them from the publisher's widow wife after his death.

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