We came across a rather swank looking auction on eBay, one peddling off a hand-crafted “arcane tome” and thought to ourselves, “Damn, this is cool! Who cooked this up?” The man is Joe Crociata, a student at the University of Tennessee. Aside from crafting cool tomes, he’s also related to the last person burned at the stake in England for religious reasons. One can only wonder what religion that was. He has a new item up for auction as well. Without further ado, here’s me and Joe:
Shoggoth Network: How did you get into making things like this book?
Joe Crociata: I always liked to draw, but I had to go to Canada last year for a few months; I decided to give myself something to do. I worked on this Indiana Jones Grail diary for a month or so I decided to unload it on eBay after I got back. I was quite surprised when someone bought it. I really didn’t get any joy from making it since it was something I wasn’t very interested in. So when I went back to Canada again I decided to start working on an original book. I made a Cultes des Goule, it was about 40 pages long with many of the same images present in the current Necronomicon; the Assyrian pictures and the illuminations. Though I think I had more illuminations and arcane symbols. At that time there were no Cthulhu tomes online and I guess people were interested. People were e-mailing me asking if the spells worked and whatnot. So I started making Cthulhu tomes. I’ve made about maybe 9 books.
The most recent book I made is a Beowulf book which I used several illuminations as the base idea. The other book i put together is a Necronomicon, which I primarily relied on an ancient Assyrian statue book and several Inuit statues I own. The simplicity of line involved in Mesopotamian and Inuit art allow for a striking image. In order to make the Mythos characters I typically use one of the Ral Partha Call of Cthulhu miniatures as a prop. However, this particular book I had already created prior. I had previously created a Cultes des Goules about 7 months ago and I vaguely remember how I made the Assyrian images, so it was sort of easy to recreate. I wish I had made a copy of the images. The Inuit images were in a rather big book I made about New Canaan. I had a short section on Ithaqua and since he is an Arctic based deity I used Inuit images. Here again I no longer had the originals. You can really get some good ideas for images for a tome from most clip art books; the great thing about them is they are cheap and uncluttered. They have them for practically every topic you can imagine.
SN: Do you play games like Call of Cthulhu? Or are you just in this for the craft?
JC: I used to really enjoy Call of Cthulhu. I had quite an extensive collection. A store I lived near in Hawaii had their stuff for 75% off and I stocked up. Unfortunately, last year when I moved I mailed it to myself and I lost it all. I don’t play since i don’t know anyone here in Knoxville. Though I would say Chaosium has the best written role playing modules, though Delta Green is in some ways more interesting. I love Horror on the Orient Express, the Kingsport Guide, and Beyond the Mountains of Madness modules.
SN: What projects do you plan on producing in the future?
JC: I plan on making a fairly large Cthulhu codex; I have all the images I need. I had previously made 2 smaller 30-page codices but I want to expand them. I was thinking of making a Delta Green zombie book. I think it would be interesting since the Germans must of done extensive testing before they released them into the Russian lines. I plan on beginning to use wood for the backboards of my books and give them more a Coptic feel. This will probably take a little experimentation on my part.
SN: Do you know of any resources out there to help people interested in creating their own books?
JC: The best resource I found as far as making your own book is, The Diary of Victor Frankenstein. It is written by Roscoe Cooper. It is bar none the most amazing book I’ve bought. It is written in diary form with many interesting drawings and inserts. The other book I like is the Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were. It gives lots of background into mythical animals. Both these books are out of print but you can get them on Amazon’s zShops. I also use the An Iconographer’s Patternbook: The Stroganov Tradition. As far as magic books go the best books you can get are from Trident Press: they specialize in small print run but quality books. They are well worth the price. The demonography they publish is a great resource for demon images.
SN: Heck, are you willing to teach anyone willing to visit you in Tennessee?
JC: I’m really at a low skill level. I like to think I am getting better. About the only thing interesting where I live is I live 40 minutes from the Evil Dead cabin.
Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. His young adult superhero book, Kensei, is available as part of Cobalt City Rookies. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.