The Necronomicon is one of the central elements of the Cthulhu Mythos. The tome was originally written by the poet Abdul Alhazred, who went mad after he completed it. Its original Arabic title was Al Azif. Like the god Cthulhu, mention of either Alhazred's name or that of his forbidden book is one of the criteria that some critics use in determining whether a Lovecraft story belongs to the Mythos cycle or not.
In a letter to Harry O. Fischer in February, 1937 Lovecraft states: "The name Necronomicon (vexpoc, corpse; vouoc, law; eixwv, image = An Image [or Picture] of the Law of the Dead) ocurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound. In assigning an Arabic author to a Greek-named book I was whimsically reversing the condition whereby the monumental astronomical work of the Greek Ptolemy (Meyahn Euvtacic Trc 'Aotpovouiac) is commmonly known by the Arabic name Almagest (or more truly, Tabrir al Magesthi), which was evolved from a corruption of the original title when the Arabs made their translation (ueyiotr is the superlative of ueyahr & the Arabs probably found it in common use to distinguish the work from another of Ptolemy's). It was not until later that I took the trouble to junt up a genuine Arabic title (Al Azif-a word which I found in Henley's learned notes to Vathek. I use the term correctly, though at second-hand) for old Abdul's original version of the Byzantinely translated Nexpovouxov." (NOTE: Greek letters need to replace Arabic corruptions of this computer.) (Selected Letters, V, 418).
In reality Necronomicon from the Greek would be: nekros, corpse; nemo, to divide; -ikon, neuter adjecitval suffix = A Study of the Dead.
A number of writers have quoted from this horrific book, including Clark Ashton Smith who, in "The Nameless Offspring, opens his tale with the following epigraph, claimed to be from the Necronomicon: "Many and multiform are the dim horrors of Earth, infesting her ways from the prime. They sleep beneath the unturned stone; they rise with the tree from its roots; they move beneath the sea and in subterranean places; they dwell in the inmost adyta; they emerge betimes from the shutten sepulchre of haughty bronze and the low grave that is sealed with clay. There be some that are long known toman, and others as yet unknown that abide the terrible latter days of their revealing. Those which are the most dreadful and the loathliest of all are haply still to be declared. But among those that have revealed themselves aforetime and have made manifest their veritable presence, there is one which may not openly be named for its exceeding foulness. It is that spawn which the hidden dwellers in the vaults has begotten upon mortality."
But it was never written though Lovecraft said in a letter to Robert E. Howard, May 7, 1932: "...As for writing the Necronomicon-I wish I had the energy and ingenuity to do it! I fear it would be quite a job in view of the very diverse passages and intimations which I have in the course of time attributed to it! I might, though, issue an 'abridged' Necronomicon-containing such parts as are considered at least reasonably safe for the perusal of mankind! When von Juntz's Black Book and the poems of Justin Geoffrey are on the market, I shall certainly have to think about the immortalisation of old Abdul!"
Exerpts from the Necronomicon can be found in:
The Festival: excerpt
("The Dunwich Horror," "The Nameless City," "The Hound," "The Festival," "Shadow Out of Time," "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," "Whisperer in Darkness," "Through the Gates of the Silver Key," "The Dreams in the Witch House," "At the Mountains of Madness," "The Call of Cthulhu,""The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Descendant" )
See also: Abdul Alhazred and Al Azif.