Saturday, November 03, 2007

The History of the Sussex Manuscript

Here is a brief excerpt and more here (click).

Back in the early 1960's, I had acquired a copy of Lin Carter's H.P. Lovecraft: The Books, 1 which I eagerly read from first to last page. But it wasn't until almost ten years later that I took more of an interest in Carter's composition. (In fact, I even updated it. 2) Therein Carter mentioned the Sussex Manuscript.


Or I'll post the entirety in comments below.

1 comment:

Chris Perridas said...

(I worry that links might be lost ... so here is the text)

by Edward P. Berglund

Back in the early 1960's, I had acquired a copy of Lin Carter's H.P. Lovecraft: The Books, 1 which I eagerly read from first to last page. But it wasn't until almost ten years later that I took more of an interest in Carter's composition. (In fact, I even updated it. 2) Therein Carter mentioned the Sussex Manuscript. This was the invention of Lovecraft-enthusiast Fred L. Pelton of Lincoln, Nebraska. At one time August Derleth had contemplated publishing this book under the auspices of Arkham House. And to create interest in the book, he mentioned the Sussex Manuscript in passing within his story The Gorge Beyond Salapunco (The Testament of Claiborne Boyd). 3
At that time I wrote Derleth asking about the possibility of its being published by the Golden Goblin Press of Arlington, Virginia (publisher of the amateur magazine Anubis. He replied, "THE SUSSEX MANUSCRIPT, I assure you, was not worth publishing—a hodgepodge of stuff, some from the published HPL & other Mythos stories, some made up to fill in the gaps. Pelton did a persuasive job in places, but the performance was very uneven. And certainly not a viable addition to the Mythos or we'd have published it. . . . Nor would other publication be likely, for we'd not permit the quotations from our stories to be used. So forget it." 4 I dropped it—for a year and a half.
In late 1971, I found myself attending language school (World Instruction and Translation, Inc.) in the Washington, D.C. area and I spent many a Saturday at the Library of Congress. I ran across a section containing telephone directories and Pelton's name came to mind. Looking through the Lincoln, Nebraska directory, I found a listing for a Frederick L. Pelton. Needless to say, I wrote him a letter. Two weeks later I received a letter from John T. Pelton, the son of Fred L. Pelton. It seems that the Pelton that I had written to turned out to be John's brother.
John Pelton informed me that his father had died in 1950. He did have the Sussex Manuscript in his possession, although it was only partially complete. Of the four books or chapters, he had only the first three in their entirety, with the opening pages of the fourth. The manuscript in toto was in a large, 12" x 19 1/2", leather-bound book. 5
Fred L. Pelton described the manuscript as follows:

Only one other text has come to light in recent times that can be accurately credited to the cult. This is the Sussex Manuscript. New research shows that this work originally bore a latin title of Cultus Maleficarum, although at this time, no Latin original has been uncovered. This English work may be a translation of some earlier Latin work, although it is not uncommon to find English books with Latin titles during the period of the 16th an 17th Centuries.
Cultus Maleficarum, as it will be called throughout this work, is written in the form of an illuminated manuscript, with elaborately decorated text. The pages measure twelve by nineteen and one half inches. The text has been written in double column, in Gothic black-letter. The manuscript contains four books: the first deals with the Mythos up to the time of the Coming of Cthulhu, the second with that Reign of Cthulhu and his overthrow, the third with the rites and ritual of the cult, and the fourth is a book of prophecy. It is now well established that the Sussex Manuscript will rank with the dreaded Necronomicon as one of the most reliable and detailed texts concerning the Mythos. The author of this masterpiece is unknown. The title page, which bears the date 1598, also contains a dedication to Baron Frederick I, who, it is supposed, was a leader of the cult. No further data is available at this time. 6

In the same letter from John Pelton, he mentioned that he also had a copy of a book his father wrote, which was entitled The Cthulhu Mythos, and that it was in effect a discussion of the mythos in four parts: (1) Language and Literature, (2) General Myth Patterns, (3) Mythos Cultism (history and rites), and (4) Cultism Today. 7
I arranged with John Pelton to obtain a xerox copy of this book, which arrived at my apartment in Suitland, Maryland in June of 1971, or should I say that the outer wrapper arrived! Inside were three lab reports from a chemical laboratory in Lincoln! I called every mail room of every chemical laboratory in the D.C. area, to no avail. The end result was that John Pelton sent the book to me by registered mail. A Complete Survey of the Cthulhu Mythos by Fred L. Pelton was a labor of love. He typed the entire manuscript on book paper and had it bound in black cloth, similar to the Arkham House books. It measures 6 5/8" x 10 1/2" x 7/8", and has the title THE CTHULHU MYTHOS stamped on the spine in gold.
Within the "Survey" there were quotations from the Sussex Manuscript, but they didn't exactly agree with the Manuscript itself. (The differences between the quotation which Lin Carter gave and the same quotations in the two Pelton books almost gives the impression that there might be another version of the Sussex Manuscript out there, possibly in the August Derleth Collection.) I thought to myself, if there are this many inaccuracies in the Manuscript quotations, what about the quotations from the Cthulhu Mythos stories and the occult books. As it turned out, they were a mess also. I began the laborious process of obtaining corrections for these quotations, through the kind and helpful efforts of [the late] Eric Carlson and Victor Boruta, with an eye toward eventual book publication. The book still hasn't been published, although it was considered by Whispers Press, Mirage Press, Ltd., and The Silver Scarab Press. Mirage Press even mentioned it in one of their 1973 flyers, announcing the book as forthcoming under the title A Guide to the Cthulhu Cult. 8
On inquiring whether Fred L. Pelton had done anything else relating to the Cthulhu Mythos, John Pelton said that he had also written Etymological Considerations of the Cthulhu Mythos and Ursprung u. Entwicklung des arkandischen Sprache, by L.R. von Erhlich (Discussions of the Arkand Language), both bearing a date of 1945, but that they were no longer believed to be extant. 9
The following quotations are from the original Sussex Manuscript; the first is a correction to the quotation Carter gave us and the second appeared in the Esoteric Order of Dagon amateur press association.

Not unknowingly did ye wise ancients do their magic by ye circles for it is of old lore that ye ring did evoke and conjure him who is nameless. Only when ye fools forgot ye memory of them did ye power of magyck fail; only when fools lost ye names did ye legends fade and men neglect them. Ye names were ye keys and they were lost. 10
The following is the introduction from the manuscript, Cultus Maleficarum, by Baron Frederic I, published in Sussex, England in 1598. The noted occultist, Pierre de Hammais, is currently at work transcribing and editing this manuscript for publication. It is hoped that the future looks as bright for the Silver Scarab Press, as it does now, for this manuscript is tentatively scheduled for publication there.


Unto English transcribed by this thy servant and taken from ye olde Latin text of Celsus Olaus called Wormius whych ye story relates is out of an olde manuscript by Abdul-al-Hazred who learnt of woundrous mysteries and horrific secrets when he slept by fabled Irem in ye desert. Herein are told of ye dread Cthulhu and His Old Ones, of Azathoth, of ye legions of darkness, of ye glories of R'lyeh, of ye secrets of ye rites, of Him Who Waits Dreaming . . . 11

As can be seen from the quoted introduction, the Sussex Manuscript (Cultus Maleficarum) is purported to be a translation of the Olaus Wormius Latin translation of The Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred. A Complete Survey of the Cthulhu Mythos was completed in 1946, at which time Fred L. Pelton expressed the viewpoint that all the gods of the Mythos wre just an alien race that inhabited earth, and with the advent of man, man worshipped certain members of this race as gods because they were alien. The viewpoint would not reach a focus within Lovecraftian fandom until the late sixties/early seventies, when Derleth's viewpoint of the Cthulhu Mythos was either dismissed out of hand or reconciled to agree with Lovecraft's.
Derleth's criticism of the Sussex Manuscript and my comments concerning A Complete Survey of the Cthulhu Mythos notwithstanding, I think these two items are still worthy of publication, even if only as curiosities. Would publication as curiosities be any different than the publication of Al Azif by Owlswick? 12 At least we would be able to read them!
The above essay was written back in 1985. Since then, a transcription of The Sussex Manuscript has appeared in Crypt of Cthulhu # 63 [Eastertide 1989, Vol. 8, # 4] with a great cover illustration by Allen Koszowski. Then Robert Price reprinted it in The Necronomicon, published by Chaosium Inc. in November of 1996.
And what of Pelton's A Complete Survey of the Cthulhu Mythos? It also achieved print, in August 1996, as A Guide to the Cthulhu Cult, published by Armitage House as a chapbook. There are plans for it to be reprinted sometime this year as a trade paperback.

What Was the Sussex Manuscript? © 1985 Cryptic Publications; reprinted from Crypt of Cthulhu, Hallowmas 1985 (Vol. 5, # 1; Whole # 35).



1 Lin Carter, "H.P. Lovecraft: The Books" in The Shuttered Room and Other Pieces by H.P. Lovecraft and Divers Hands, compiled by August Derleth (Sauk City: Arkham House: Publishers, 1959). Return
2 Edward P. Berglund, "Addenda to 'H.P. Lovecraft: The Books'" in Bibliotheca: H.P. Lovecraft (Birmingham, England: David A Sutton, 1971). Return
3 August Derleth, "The Gorge Beyond Salapunco" in The Trail of Cthulhu (NewYork: Ballantine Books, 1976), p. 109. Return
4 August Derleth to Edward P. Berglund, July 5, 1969. Return
5 John T. Pelton to Edward P. Berglund, March 2, 1971. Return
6 Fred L. Pelton, A Complete Survey of the Cthulhu Mythos (MS, 1 August 1946), pp. 7-8. Return
7 John T. Pelton to Edward P. Berglund, March 2, 1971. Return
8 Jack L. Chalker to Edward P. Berglund, March 28, 1973. Return
9 John T. Pelton to Edward P. Berglund, July 18, 1971. Return
10 Cultus Maleficarum (ca. 1946), Book I, Chapter xxv. Return
11 From the Dark Spaces, I, i (May 1974). Return
12 Abdul Alhazred, Al Azif (The Necronomicon) (Philadelphia: Owlswick Press, 1973). Return


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