The Connection between the Necronomicon and Euclidean Geometry

This is a brief note on an interesting piece of information I found while conducting my studies on Lovecraft and mathematics.  In the paper in Mathematics I previously mentioned – H.P. Lovecraft: A Horror in Higher Dimensions (written by Thomas Hull of Merrimack College, North Andover, MA) – the author noted that John Dee translated Euclid’s The Elements into English.

John Dee by an unknown artist (from Wikipedia.org)

John Dee (1527 – 1609) was a mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I who had many other titles and varied interests.  Dee was one of those individuals who was born and lived through the  Renaissance and worked equally in science / mathematics as well as magic / alchemy.  However, Lovecraft fans may recognize the name of the man who translated Olaus Wormius’s Latin version of the Necronomicon into English.  This idea was first cited in a story by Frank Belknap Long called The Space Eaters.

Illustration from Frank Belknap Long’s story The Space Eaters (Weird Tales, July 1928)

It is mentioned in Joshi’s I am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft (2013), that HPL cited this Dee translation of the Necronomicon in later stories.  This would not be surprising since HPL would frequently incorporate the ideas or concepts other writers had into his stories to expand on the growing myth.  However, I can not find any Dee citations in either his own stories or revised tales.  If anyone can provide specific passages where HPL cited the Dee text it would be most appreciated.  My guess is that these references originate from letters, essays or other correspondences of HPL’s.  Mr. Long did provide a fragment of the Dee-translated Necronomicon and this has been published in Robert M. Price’s The Necronomicon (Chaosium, 1996).

In any event, it is interesting that John Dee translated both Euclid’s The Elements and Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon.  I wonder which one he translated first?  I am assuming Euclid’s was translated first because where to you go after you translate the Necronomicon?  Also, I’m sure he would have been laughing at all of the strict rules of Euclidean geometry after translating the Necronomicon.  Next time the discussion will be back on the Witch House and higher dimensions.  Thank you – Fred

The Necronomicon  by Marc Simonetti (from The Art of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos)

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9 thoughts on “The Connection between the Necronomicon and Euclidean Geometry

    1. Hey Krzysztof – thank you. I know I have heard of the Dee translation throughout Lovecraftian / Cthulhu stories but could not actually find it in Lovecraft’s stories.

      1. Actually, Dee is a very unlikely translator for the Necronomicon as he was a devout Anglican. It’s hard for many people (then and now) to wrap their heads around the fact that Dee not only saw no conflict between his religion and his magical practice, but that he regarded his magical practice as perhaps the highest expression of his religion. Dee wanted to talk to angels. This doesn’t mean he regarded all magic as holy by any means: we know he threatened to fire his spryer, Edward Kelly, when he caught the fellow meddling with the Lesser Key of Solomon, a grimoire that is quite innocuous when compared with Alhazred’s. Dee ultimately dropped his Enochian workings when his angels started to contradict accepted Christian doctrine. No, the good Dr. Dee would never have had anything to do with the Necronomicon!

        So how to reconcile the historical facts with Lovecraft’s fictional history? I think the best explanation is that the ‘Dee translation’ was in fact done by someone else, probably well after Dee’s death, who wished to both protect himself and take advantage of Dee’s reputation. This sort of thing happened all the time. To give just one example, the so-called ‘Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy’ is most definitely not by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, author of the famous ‘Three Books of Occult Philosophy.’

      2. Hey Julianus – thank you for the information. Yes, Dee did live in a very unique time when science and magic were both accepted as valid means of investigating and understanding the world, universe and reality around them. More than likely you are correct – however, Dee may have translated only a small portion of the Necronomicon and more than likely there were numerous individuals who contributed to the translation into English. I am sure one person doing the bulk of the translation would surely have gone insane!

        Frank Belknap Long was the first to suggest that Dee translated the Necronomicon and indeed he provided a fragment of this in Dr. Robert M. Price’s Chaosium book “The Necronomicon.” Perhaps that is the only fragment good Dr. Dee translated!

        Again, than you for the input! Fred.

  1. I have to agree with you that there is no evidence in Lovecraft’s stories of quotations from the Dee edition of the Necronomicon.

    I believe the venerable Mr. Joshi may be incorrect on this point. I don’t have access to to his ‘I am Providence,’ so I can’t be sure of the context or wording of the assertion that it was quoted in his later stories (or if there was a footnote reference), but from your remark, he apparently doesn’t say it was from his correspondences or essays.

    I haven’t read the entirety of Lovecraft’s letters, so I may be mistaken on this point, but so far I haven’t seen any direct quotations from any edition of the Necronomicon in any of his letters printed in ‘Collected Letters’ vol’s II-IV.

    I have done extensive research into the contents of the Necronomicon, and can say for sure that there are no quotations from Lovecraft’s stories quoted from the Dee edition. References to the edition, yes; quotes from it, no.

    1. Hey Nolan – thank you for the supporting information. I have a set of the Arkham House HPL Collected Letters but have only skimmed them. I was not sure if I was missing something regarding this point so thanks again for the corroborating information! Fred

  2. In “The Dunwich Horror” Lovecraft writes that “Wilbur had with him the priceless but imperfect copy of Dr. Dee’s English version which his grandfather had bequeathed him, and upon receiving access to the Latin copy he at once began to collate the two texts with the aim of discovering a certain passage which would have come on the 751st page of his own defective volume.”

    Also, Lovecraft’s “History of the Necronomicon” essay included the line “An English translation made by Dr. Dee was never printed, and exists only in fragments recovered from the original manuscript.” (However, I’m pretty sure that the original 1927 version of this essay did not have that line and that it was added after the printing of The Space Eaters.)

    Best–Dan

      1. Thanks, Fred!

        I realized too late that I mis-read earlier posts and, really, didn’t add anything to the to conversation.

        Either way, I’ve loved reading through this series on Witch House. Interestingly enough, only three weeks ago I got my latest math tattoo and this time used a combination of John Dee’s monad and his heptogram/septogram because of Dee’s Euclid/Necronomicon connections.

        Best-Dan

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