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CLASSIC HORROR BLOG

Illuminating Supernatural Fiction, Horror, and the Gothic

from Mary Shelley to H. P. Lovecraft

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10 Best Small, Indie, or Craft Publishers of Classic Horror that You'll be Proud to Support


Oldstyle Tales is privileged to be in the company of some truly dedicated professionals who share our twin core missions of making artful editions of classic horror and supernatural fiction, and preserving those sometimes neglected or forgotten voices for future generations. These are the folks that keep the innovative and chilling artistry of Fitz-James O’Brien, F. Marion Crawford, William Hope Hodgson, E. F. Benson, J. S. Le Fanu, and others alive in the imaginations of curious readers. Dover Publications and Wordsworth Editions are famous for their prolific catalogs (although Dover’s peaked in the 1970s while E. F. Bleiler was alive, and Wordsworth recently axed half of their macabre titles), but as conscientious consumers of quality horror fiction, we tend to care about what companies we support, and the following ten presses are operated by hardworking, diligent creators of beautiful collectibles, rare and forgotten fiction, and brilliantly edited anthologies. So give them a check when you next get a taste for the good old tales.

And while you’re here, feel invited to peruse our own expanding catalog (we’re working on Henry James right now), and “The Yellow Booke,” our free, online journal of contemporary horror

10. SAROB PRESS

Our first entry is something of a sad example of the hot and cold pressures of the independent publishing business. A Welsh press that focuses on breathing life into the greatest masters of the past two centuries (Le Fanu, Riddell, Croker, Maynard, and others). Universally praised and infamous amongst collectors, whose enthusiasm seems unanimous, Sarob appears to have closed up shop in 2007, before returning in a smaller capacity, now based in France. While no longer present in full force, they still maintain a blog and a legacy that will not fade from public memory anytime soon.

THEIR WEBSITE: sarobpress.blogspot.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: No description, but the word [M. R.] “Jamesian” is bandied about liberally

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: Vengeful Ghosts (C. E. Ward), Cold Hand on My Shoulder (Basil Cooper), Malevolent Visitants (C. E. WARD -- a new one!)

TYPICAL PRICE: Between $40 - $60

9. RAMBLE HOUSE

This American press specialized in neglected pulp fiction from the early decades of the last century. Their website allows for a fairly easy navigation of an EXTENSIVE collection of titles. While the selection may be more appealing to fans of crime, mystery, and suspense, there is plenty to fascinate fans of the macabre and supernatural. Among the Oldstyle Tales approved Authors of the Weird and Horrific are such luminaries as Robert W. Chambers, Irvin S. Cobb, M. P. Sheil, and H. G. Wells. The titles are admittedly more on the economy side with rather photo-shoppy covers, but the selection is enormous and they offer a winsome quirk: the first chapter of every book is free to read.

THEIR WEBSITE: ramblehouse.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: The press specializes in reprints of long-neglected and rare crime fiction novels, modern crime fiction, “weirdmenace”/”shudder pulps” – short story collections from rare pulp magazines, and scholarly works by noted authors on the crime fiction genre, and a host of other diverse books of a collectible or curious nature.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: Ghost House (Norman Berrow), Night of Horror and Other Stories (J. T. Rogers), We Are the Dead (Day Keene)

TYPICAL PRICE: Almost all paperbacks are $18

8. NIGHT SHADE BOOKS

Run from San Francisco, this small press is a magnet for awards and critical acclaim, largely focusing on the science fiction and fantasy genres, but dabbling in horror and the supernatural as well. The company explicitly specializes in new authors and talent, but has a small yet laudable collection of established masters from yesteryear: William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman, Fritz Leiber, and others. Their editions of Hodgson are definitive. Slick, stylish, and professional, it is a treasure-trove for those interested in the living voices of horror – from Ellen Datlow to Neal Asher – but has some shiny trinkets for aficionados of the classic supernaturalists.

THEIR WEBSITE: nightshadebooks.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Night Shade Books was founded in 1997, and has been publishing science fiction, fantasy and horror for nearly two decades. After fifteen years, and more than two hundred and fifty books later, and Night Shade Books has become a significant publisher of genre fiction. With the help of an essential and dedicated group of editors, artists, and designers, we publish between three and five books a month.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: The Door to Saturn (Ashton Smith), Ghost Pirates and Others: the Best of William Hope Hodgson, Selected Stories (Leiber)

TYPICAL PRICE: $14 to $20. $16.99 is a common price for their paperbacks

7. CENTIPEDE PRESS (Formerly MILLIPEDE PRESS)

This Colorado-based fan favorite has collaborated many times with S. T. Joshi, the dean of Lovecraftian scholarship. While Joshi polarizes readers, Centipede Press – a reincarnation of the defunct Millipede Press – is welcomed unanimously for its broad and stylish selection. Centipede Press is tremendously high end, issuing limited edition (200-300 copies a title), signed hardcovers with luscious oil painting illustrations and covers, and the glut of their classic horror selection is out of print (though still possible to find online through third parties). Their catalog (though greatly reduced currently) has been exhaustive, including a wide range of luminaries: Blackwood, Bloch, Bradbury, Hodgson, Howard, Hildebrandt, Ketchum, King, Koontz, Leiber, Lovecraft, Long, Stoker, Straub, and Stevenson. Truly immense. The only detraction, again, is the sheer volume of these books which are no longer available due to their limited availability. The top-shelf, 50 years aged, single malt scotch of horror presses.

THEIR WEBSITE: centipedepress.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: There is no explicit description, but their list of genres is plenty telling: Horror, Masters of the Weird Tale, Studies in the Horror Film, Crime, Science Fiction, Gothics, Art, Anthologies.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: William Hope Hodgson, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Machen, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

TYPICAL PRICE: very wide range -- $25 - $175, though the average book is a round $50

6. HIPPOCAMPUS PRESS

This New York centered printer focuses largely on interbellum weird fiction, with a large emphasis on Lovecraft, his influences, and his disciples: Ashton Smith, Blackwood, Dunsany, Ligotti, Joshi, Ramsey Campbell, and others. The press, like Centipede, is a highly renowned powerhouse in the small press world. Uniquely, it has a large emphasis on scholarship, commentary, and non fiction. The editions are sharp and professional, and their name remains highly respected and recognizable in weird fiction circles.

THEIR WEBSITE: hippocampuspress.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Founded in 1999, Hippocampus Press specializes in classic horror and science fiction with an emphasis on the works of H. P. Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the 1920s and 1930s. Working closely with the leading scholars in the field we offer unique, high-quality, affordable editions of these important works. One charming item of note is their small collection, “Lovecraft’s Library,” which is exactly what it sounds like: a delectable selection of a few of Old Providence’s favorite writers.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: The Assassination of Ambrose Bierce (Don Swaim), House of Sounds (M. P. Shiel), Incredible Adventures (Blackwood), The Undying Thing (Barry Pain)

TYPICAL PRICE: $12.50 - $20

5. SWAN RIVER PRESS

Run out of Ireland, Swan River Press is fittingly committed to the proliferation of Irish horror. As M. R. James well knew, Ireland was a perennial source of horrific delights – from Le Fanu, Hearn, Stoker, Leland, Wall, and others. Their catalog is a lovely mixture of classic supernaturalism and living authors from all around the British Isles. Their books are tasteful, stylish, and brilliantly edited, and they offer a delightful journal, “The Green Book” (no relation to our “Yellow Booke”), which is thick with cracker-jack scholarship on “Irish Gothic, supernatural, and fantastical literature.” Swan River Press remains one of the most scholarly, intellectually fascinating publications on this list.

THEIR WEBSITE: swanriverpress.ie

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Ireland's only publishing house dedicated to literature of the gothic, fantastic, strange and supernatural.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: November Night Tales (Henry C. Mercer), Dreams of Shadow and Smoke (stories inspired by Le Fanu), Curfew: and Other Eerie Tales (Lucy M. Boston), The Definitive “Judge’s House” (Stoker)

TYPICAL PRICE: $9 - $33 ($33, or 30 euros, is the standard price)

4. VALANCOURT PRESS

A charming independent printer specializing in “neglected” and out of print fiction, Valancourt Press is run by two friends with a passion (which I share) for make their favorite texts print-on-demand in order to spare them from sheer obscurity. Their focuses are on “horror, gothic, and the supernatural,” “gay interests,” and other quaint and curious lore. Unlike us, Valancourt is primarily devoted to the Gothic era rather than the Victorian and Edwardian periods, and thus provide a missing piece that is shamefully neglected: Radcliffe, Lewis, Reynolds, Marryat, and others.

THEIR WEBSITE: valancourtbooks.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Valancourt Books is an independent small press specializing in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction. Despite the valiant efforts of a few small presses and the availability of new technology that can make books available to readers all over the world, far too many great books remain out-of-print and inaccessible; we founded Valancourt Books in 2005 to restore many of these works to new generations of readers. Below, you’ll find information about what we publish and who we are. I am tremendously enthusiastic about their catalog, which looks like Bram Stoker’s library: a delicious collection of grisly Gothic thrillers from the 1700s up through the 1910s. A fantastic, rare, and intriguing press that deserves FAR more attention.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: The Old English Baron, The Midnight Bell, The Animated Skeleton, Carmilla, The Monk, An Anthology of Victorian Werewolf Fiction

TYPICAL PRICES: $15 to $18

3. COACHWHIP BOOKS

I cannot say enough about this quirky, print-on-demand press run out of Ohio. The books may have that slightly photoshopped, quickly cobbled sense about them, but the contents are brilliant. Anthologies of werewolves, cryptids, deadly plants, deadly insects, dinosaurs, and more grace its catalog, along with some of the best researched and selected collections from some of speculative fiction’s most overlooked geniuses: Barry Pain, E. G. Swain, Ralph Adams Cram, R. H. Benson, and others. Like Valancourt, they provide a noble service by keeping the underappreciated geniuses of our genre in print, and they earn especially high marks for their inventive anthologies (whole books dedicated to mammoths, mummies, invisibility, and microbes, with definitive selections that demonstrate expertise in the various subects).

THEIR WEBSITE: coachwhipbooks.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Investigate cryptozoology. Breed strange and beautiful invertebrates. Pit your wits against a classic detective. Learn to play checkers or dominoes. Read a set of classic comic books. Enjoy a ghost story. Brush up on psychological warfare. Learn to draw trees. There is something for just about everyone.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: Poe After Dark, Dark Canon (M. R. James), The Speculative Conan Doyle, Tales of Fright and Fantasy (E. F. Benson), Bordercrossings (Hodgson), Black Spirits and White (Cram), Wulf (werewolf anthology), A Spectrum Unseen (invisibility anthology)

TYPICAL PRICES: Roughly $14.95

2. ASH-TREE PRESS

Based in Canada, Ash-Tree Press is the godfather of all indie horror presses – dispensers of luscious, indulgent, dare I say deliciously artful editions. Playfully named after the eponymous M. R. James story, this spidery printer has a great delight for Jamesian horror, and focuses on the likes of Le Fanu, E. F. Benson, E. Nesbit, Violet Hunt, H. R. Wakefield, and Fitz-James O’Brien. Their gorgeous designs, ingenious editing, and vast catalog make them one of the most widely renowned companies in the business. Their wide net – including many definitive editions of authors like O’Brien, Le Fanu, Jerome K. Jerome, and Arthur Conan Doyle – has led to their universal acclamation.

THEIR WEBSITE: ash-tree.bc.ca

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: PUBLISHERS OF QUALITY SUPERNATURAL FICTION SINCE 1994; WORLD FANTASY AWARD WINNER 1997 & 2004 - BRAM STOKER AWARD WINNER 1999; INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD WINNER 2004; SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD NOMINEE - 2007 & 2008

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: The Wondersmith and Others (O’Brien), The Haunted Baronet and Others (Le Fanu), Sea Mist (Benson), Tales of the Uneasy (Hunt), Hauntings (Vernon Lee)

TYPRICAL PRICES: Between $40 and $50

1. TARTARUS PRESS

If Ash-Tree is the godfather of independent horror, then the United Kingdom’s Tartarus Press is its grande-dame: the most elegant and tasteful publisher that we have encountered, with a vast catalogue (especially in terms of Arthur Machen, Walter de la Mare, and other underappreciated masters). Their simple but stylish hardcovers are all jacketed in their trademark buff covers – a beautiful foray in understatement and taste. Collectors unanimously consider Tartarus the Cadillac of the trade – a chic, tasteful, definitive series of well-printed, well-bound, well-edited masterpieces. Celebrating 25 years in operation, they have earned their stripes in an industry where old age is a rarity, and are certainly worth a gander.

THEIR WEBSITE: tartaruspress.com

HOW THEY DESCRIBE THEMSELVES: Tartarus is a small, British independent press founded in 1990. We specialise in collectable hardback limited editions of literary supernatural/strange/horror fiction, and we also publish paperbacks and ebooks. We have been the recipient of five World Fantasy Awards (as recently as 2015), and in 2010 received a "Stoker" from the Horror Writers Association.

SOME SAMPLE TITLES: We Are for the Dark (Aickman), Uncanny Tales (Crawford), Strangers and Pilgrims (de la Mare), The Sand-Man and Other Night Pieces (Hoffmann), Dreads and Drolls (Machen)

TYPICAL PRICES: roughly $46