• Sold for: Start Free Trial or Sign In to see what it's worth.
  • Item Category: Books, Paper & Magazines
  • Source: eBay
  • Sold Date: Jul 26, 2010
  • Channel: Auction House


The King in Yellow is a collection of short stories written by Robert W. Chambers and published in 1895. The stories could be categorized as early horror fiction or Victorian Gothic fiction, but the work also touches on mythology, fantasy, mystery, science fiction and romance. H.P. Lovecraft read The King in Yellow in early 1927 and included passing references to various things and places from the book — such as the Lake of Hali and the Yellow Sign — in “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1931), one of his seminal Cthulhu Mythos stories. Lovecraft borrowed Chambers' method of only vaguely referring to supernatural events, entities, and places, tby allowing his readers to imagine the horror for themselves. The fictional play The King in Yellow effectively became another piece of occult literature in the Cthulhu Mythos alongside the Necronomicon and others.

ON AUCTION is a great copy of the 1895 first edition of The King in Yellow, as published by F. Tennyson Neely, Chicago and New York, with the 1895 date on the title page. T are several states of the 1895 first edition. This is a slightly later one, as the salamander does not appear on the front board, and t is a frontispiece of Chambers, which wasn't in the first state.

Sized 6 and a half by 4 inches, 316 pages. Very good condition, a tiny repair to the bottom of the spine (see scan). WE NOTE that only two copies exist in jacket, and one dealer wants $15,000 for his jacketed copy.

The first four stories are loosely connected by three main devices:

A play in book form entitled The King in Yellow

A mysterious and malevolent supernatural entity known as The King in Yellow

An eerie symbol called The Yellow Sign

These stories are macabre in tone, centering on characters that are often artists or decadents. The first story "The Repairer of Reputations", is set in an imagined future 1920s America.

The other stories in the book do not follow the macabre theme of the first four, and most are written in the romantic fiction style common to Chambers' later work. Some are linked to the preceding stories by their Parisien setting and artistic protagonists.

List of stories

The stories present in the book are:

The Repairer of Reputations

The Mask

In the Court of the Dragon

The Yellow Sign

The Demoiselle d'Ys

The Prophets' Paradise

The Street of the Four Winds

The Street of the First Shell

The Street of Our Lady of the Fields

Rue Barrée

The play called The King in Yellow

The fictional play The King in Yellow has two acts, and at least three characters: Cassilda, Camilla, and the King in Yellow. Chambers' story collection excerpts sections from the play to introduce the book as a whole, or individual stories. For example, "Cassilda's Song" comes from Act I, Scene 2 of the play:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink beneath the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night w black stars rise,

And strange moons circle through the skies

But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,

W flap the tatters of the King,

Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.

The short story "The Mask" is introduced by an excerpt from Act I, Scene 2d:

Camilla: You, sir, should unmask.

Stranger: Indeed?

Cassilda: Indeed, it's time. We have all laid aside disguise but you.

Stranger: I wear no mask.

Camilla: (Terrified, aside to Cassilda.) No mask? No mask!

All of the excerpts come from Act I. The stories describe Act I as quite ordinary, but reading Act II drives the reader mad with the "irresistible" revealed truths. “The very banality and innocence of the first act only allowed the blow to ...