A Derleth Christmas card

No one has yet performed the daunting task of preparing the complete bibliography of Wisconsin writer and publisher August Derleth, which might fill two thick volumes or more with small print.

Alison M. Wilson came closest, compiling a bibliography of Derleth that is both academic and rigorous, but only in some categories.  Facing a project that was “swelling” (Introduction) to “impossible dimensions,” Wilson quickly realized she needed to waive many standard components of the typical catalog. August Derleth: A Bibliography (Scarecrow Press, 1983) has neither the section of Verse (Derleth’s poetry collections and anthologies are listed, but perhaps a thousand or more individual listings are missing) nor of Reviews and Columns (Derleth appeared weekly at least in newspapers for nearly all of forty years); nor does it have a section of items written about Derleth.

Also missing—obviously—are publications after 1983 (three decades’ worth), unpublished manuscripts and other materials (first uncovered in the 1990s), most published letters, much nonfiction (especially for the Small Press), and many reviews of Derleth’s books.  Despite these omissions, Wilson fills well over 200 pages, listing 736 primary items.

Derleth himself is partially responsible for any lack of completeness, having meticulously recorded, published and circulated his own bibliographies during most of his career.  As a result, few readers found it necessary to track anything on their own.  Unfortunately, this had a downside, for Derleth focused only on his published books and also because the last compilation he did in 1962 is lacking the final (and most important) decade of his life.

I was reminded of bibliographies only a week ago when I made an astonishing discovery in a Wisconsin antique store.  Though only once had I seen one before—and that was in a photograph—I recognized immediately (though they were partially hidden) Derleth Christmas cards.  I decided to purchase the small stack of them, no matter how many or what the dealer was asking.

Print of an original August Derleth Christmas card

There were five cards, and each also featured a reproduction of a woodcut by Wisconsin artist Frank Utpatel.  I will assume that for consecutive years Derleth chose one he newly favored for inspiration, composed a new Christmas/New Year poem, and then stamped these onto heavy stock paper to give as a holiday greeting.  Derleth personalized each by signing them individually and adding to a few warm patches of yellow moonlight.

None of the five poems published thus are in Alison Wilson’s bibliography, where all contents of all Derleth’s poetry collections are listed in full.  So these too must one day be added to make a complete bibliography of August Derleth, and I will see that they are.

Print of an original August Derleth Christmas card

Prolific Wisconsin author August Derleth was a life-long friend of Allied Authors. A proponent of Wisconsin regional writing and fan of genre-writing, Derleth maintained ties with numerous Allied Authors members. A business man and editor, he promoted and sporadically published their work.

John D. Haefele submitted this article (© 2012 all rights reserved)


3 responses to “A Derleth Christmas card

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