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Clarence John Laughlin Collections: About Book Collection


The Clarence John Laughlin Collection includes over 33,000 book titles, more than 900 serials, and manuscripts which reflect Laughlin’s work as a writer, book collector, and photographer.
A life-long writer and reader himself, Laughlin devoted vast amounts of time and energy to collecting and curating books and serials. Although he sold 20,000 volumes to Southern Illinois University in the early 1960s for financial reasons, he kept 2,000 in his personal collection rather than part with them all. As his reputation as a photographer grew in the 1970s, he returned to book collecting and began his lifelong project of amassing and curating the Laughlin Library of the Arts.
Laughlin’s library was devoted to more than the documentation of the visual arts. Laughlin organized the library into eleven sections, each devoted to a different area of research: Art; Still Photography and Cinema; Contemporary Literature; Fantasy and Science-Fiction; The Physical Sciences; The Mental Sciences; Architecture and Architects; Illustrated Books, Books on Books, etc.; Antiques, etc.; Miscellaneous; and Sexology, etc. A variety of topics were represented within each of these sections. Laughlin essentially created an interdisciplinary resource, whose segments were part of a functional whole. For a comprehensive view of certain topics, cross-referencing was necessary – the Contemporary Literature Section, for example, included theatrical literature, but theatrical architecture was shelved in the Architecture and Architects Section.
For more details see a transcript of
Laughlin’s personal library arrangement located in the side bar to the right. This document provides insight into Laughlin’s personal collection development and is for reference purposes only. Materials from the Laughlin Book Collection are currently arranged and catalogued with Library of Congress classification at LSU Libraries, Special Collections.
Towards the end of his life, Laughlin worked to ensure the safekeeping of the library. LSU Libraries, with a generous gift from the Friends of the LSU Libraries, purchased the Laughlin Library of the Arts in 1985, with Elizabeth Heintzen Laughlin completing the sale following her husband’s death on January 2.
The Clarence John Laughlin Collection is known for its extensive holdings on Surrealism, as well as comprehensive holdings on speculative fiction – weird fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and horror – from its pulp beginnings through 1985. A comprehensive survey conducted by Carole Therese McCusker in April 1992 found the collection “equally represents philosophy, medicine, erotica, Western and non-Western religion and art, social and environmental studies, science fiction and science phenomenology, anthropology, psychology and archaeology.”
[1] Also of note are Laughlin’s extensive holdings in illustrated collections of fairy tales and folklore, detective and mystery fiction, books and serials on cinema and film, and compilations of speculative fiction and comics previously available only in serial format. Cataloged materials from the Laughlin Book Collection can be found here.

[1] McCusker, Carol Therese. “Unpacking his Library: Literature in the Photographs of Clarence John Laughlin.” Master’s thesis (The University of New Mexico, December 1992), p. xii.


Recommended titles and featured subject listings found on SELECT BOOKS page.

Recommended biography on Clarence John Laughlin:
Meeks, A. J. Clarence John Laughlin: Prophet Without Honor. (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press) 2007.
TR 140 .L332 M44 2007 LLMVC

Cinefantasique magazine cover depicting realistic illustration of Blade Runner film with Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer.

Cinefantastique, Vol. 12, No. 5/Vol. 12, No. 6, (Blade Runner cover), 1982.

PN1995.9 .H6 C48

Book jacket illustration with orange tinted photo of Hans Reichel seated at a table writing.

Miller, Henry, Order and Chaos Chez Hans Reichel. (Tuscon, AZ: Loujon Press), c1966.

PS3525 .I5454 Z578 1966

Illustrated Motif magazine cover of a multicolor woodblock print depicting a watermelon growing in the earth with the sun in the sky.

Motif (London, England), no. 4, March 1960.

N1 .M88 OVER

H P Lovecraft book jacket illustration in blue and white with various alien creatures each framed by a giant star with more stars in the background.

Lovecraft, H.P., The Outsider and Others. (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House), 1939.

PS3523 .O833 O9 1939 HILL

Zoom photography magazine cover of Japan issue. Illustration depicts a close-up photo of a Kabuki actor in make-up with white headscarf.

Zoom, no. 45, 1977.

TR640 .Z6632 OVER

Illustrated book cover for Zombie depicting drawings of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi with a woman resting in an oversized hand coming out of the fog. Below zombies congregate in a cemetery flanked by haunted houses.

London, Rose, Zombie: The Living Dead. (New York: Bounty Books), c1976.

PN1995.9 .H6 L6 1976

Languages represented in the Laughlin Book Collection:


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