Rediscovered: Arkham Ephemera — Last Call

As John D. Haefele and I sit down to the ordeal of finally pulling together a book on Classic Era Arkham House advertising ephemera, an obvious challenge will be tracking down every possible scrap of paper that acted as Arkham promo.

We’ve been working at that task for decades, but if you think you’ve got an Item no one else on earth could possibly know about, by all means pop me a note.

When I did my list for Firsts back in 2002 — with Haefele consulting — I greatly expanded on the previous ephemera checklist the bookseller Roy Squires published based on the Phil Mays collection, and put some Items in different (and better) order.

For the book, we have enough info to expand the 100 Item list from Firsts by (at least) half, and we’re going to make another try at establishing best order.

See the image at top, from The Haefele Collection?

The Last Call brochure is no. 43 in the Firsts list (and does not appear in the Phil Mays list), with the note from Derleth it goes with incontrovertibly recording that this one copy is going out months before the 1957 Stock List. (And wouldn’t some of you liked to have had the chance to grab that copy of The Outsider and Others for $40?)

“As far as the Last Call brochures go,” Haefele writes, “I recall little or no real evidence that suggests May’s order is accurate, since most Last Calls I have seen came out of the same envelope with the matching Stock List.

“Obviously a postmark earlier than a catalog mailed subsequently must trump that order. My logic, however, is that Derleth had to decide which Items to drop first, before ordering the catalog — then he often ordered them simultaneously.

“Plus there are one or more examples where two Last Calls were issued before their matching catalog, with all titles subtracted.

“I tend to systemize Derleth’s activities. For example, he obviously decided before he did a Stock List which titles had too few copies on hand to justify the cost of including them. Thus, though they may have come out of the same earliest envelopes in any order, I always present the Last Call inserts ahead of the Stock List they are married to — for the same reason the typical first addendum always follows.”

I told Haefele that I’m nurturing some disagreement on that idea — jumbling the numbers up just to put Last Call before a concurrent catalog (especially when they may have been printed and shipped at same time) strikes me as too formal.

Why if the Items were done at same time would Last Call logically come first? You’d think Derleth would drop the big Stock List (cutting out the titles in low stock) and include the Last Call more or less to appear “after the fact” just to create panic buying.

I guess it’s like thinking of the Last Calls as lone scout ships sent out ahead of the battle cruiser, on their own, pitching around on the rolling seas — or thinking of them as part of the larger convoy, part of an expeditionary force, doing their bit to sell some Lovecraft and company.

We’ll figure it out — and if you’ve got an opinion based on these thoughts, here’s your chance to chip in. Influence history.

Was Derleth always systematic (certainly), or was he also open to a little improv when the moment called for it?

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