I’ve come across a couple sites this morning stating that the Arabic book of magic Shams al-Ma’arif, which we discussed previously, is (or could be) the inspiration for the Necronomicon. Most of the reasoning seems to be the typical sort I’ve seen many times before – Book X has certain characteristics, the Necronomicon has the same characteristics, therefore Book X inspired the Necronomicon.
The reasoning is flawed, of course, and there are some substantive reasons against it. First, a proponent would have to prove that not only are the books similar, but that Lovecraft knew about them. I’ve yet to see any passages describing the Shams al-Ma’arif to which HPL would have had access. In addition, Lovecraft never mentions the book in any of the letters I’ve read, and no scholar has noted such a link in his unpublished correspondence. This is hardly as airtight a rationale as we might want, as the appearance of a new source or letter could open up the possibility.
Even more troubling for the theory is Lovecraft’s actual use of the book in his work. Earlier stories such as “The Hound” and “The Festival” use the Necronomicon as a source for mystical information – specifically, as Joshi observes, about the survivals of the dead – and not a work of incantations. That characterization only appears in later tales, such as “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward” and “The Dunwich Horror”, only to be swept aside in the science fiction stories later in which the mad Arab speaks of the past pre-human civilizations of our planet.
It simply doesn’t make sense that Lovecraft, having heard of an Arabic book on magic, would use that information to create an Arabic book not dealing with magic which he turned back into a book on magic later.