Library Of Lost Books
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Basic Information

Neil Gaiman's comic book Sandman describes a library in the realm of Morpheus containing every book ever dreamed of… but never written: The Library of Lost Books. Sometimes the author planned to write the work, but died before he could complete it. Sometimes he compiled notes for the book but abandoned it for other reasons.

This page is a listing of similar lost works. They come in three categories:

  • Works that were planned, but never completed and fragmentary works
  • Works that existed at one time, but have become lost to us for some reason or another
  • Works that are wholly fictitious; that are referred to in another work but don't actually exist.
  • Douglas Adams
    • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
      • The title of his radio series/novel is taken from a fictitious reference work used by hitchhikers all over space. The Guide is partly a plot device, but also a source of background information and commentary.
  • Abdul Alhazred
    • The Necronomicon
      • In numerous stories, H.P. Lovecraft mentioned The Necronomicon, a blasphemous tome of eldritch lore written by the mad poet Abdul Alhazred, full of dark incantations and baleful prehistory. In truth, Alhazred didn't exist, Lovecraft created him and the book out of whole cloth. He used the repeated mentions of both for mythopoeia and to establish verisimilitude. It worked - many readers assumed the book was real. Enterprising publishers have since produced books claiming to be the Necronomicon to cash in on interest, but the texts of them do not match Lovecraft's descriptions.
  • Bilbo Baggins
    • There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Holiday
      • source material for The Hobbit
    • Translations from the Elvish
      • a collection of elvish poetry; presumably the source for The Simarillion.
  • Frodo Baggins et al.
    • The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King
        • source for LOTR
  • Bathilda Bagshot
    • A History of Magic
      • An essential work, frequently cited by Hermionie in the Harry Potter series.
    • Hogwarts: a History
      • Another of Hermionie's faves
  • Rosie M. Banks
    • Only a Factory Girl
      • representative title from a prolific author of romance novels from the Bertie Wooster stories
  • The Bible
    • The Q Document
      • A hypothetical document compiling some of the sayings and acts of Jesus believed by some scholars to have been used, along with the Gospel of Mark, as source material for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
  • Meriadoc Brandybuck
    • Herb-Lore of the Shire
      • describes the history of the cultivation and use of pipe-weed by Hobbits
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    • Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment
      • An unfinished poem inspired by an opium dream describing Kubla Khan's elaborate and opulent pleasure dome. While writing the poem, Coleridge was interrupted by a visitor from Porlock and could never afterwards remember the rest of his dream.
  • Oolon Colouphid
    • Where God Went Wrong; More of God's Greatest Mistakes; and Who Is This God Person Anyway?
      • a trilogy of theological blockbusters by a controversial pop theologian mentioned in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • That About Wraps It Up for God
      • An inversion of the argument for Intelligent Design, using the example of the Babel Fish to prove that God doesn't exist. Regarded by most respectable theologians as "a load of dingo's kidneys."
  • Florence Cray
    • Spindrift
      • A pretentious bestseller written by one of Bertie Wooster's sometimes fiancees
  • Albert Einstein
    • Unified Field Theory
      • Einstein spent the last thirty years of his life trying to find a single unified theory of everything, which would explain all of reality in elegant geometric terms. He had worked on several partial manuscripts, each of which attempted to do this, but failed.
  • W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan
    • Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old
      • This operetta was the first collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. The play was not a success and the music for it has been lost except for one song that they recycled in a later operetta and another that was published separately as sheet music.
  • Sherlock Holmes
    • Various Monographs on Criminology
      • In the stories, Holmes often mentions having written monographs on subjects relating to criminology, such as cryptography, identifying different types of tobacco ash and preserving evidence of footprints by the use of plaster of Paris.
    • "Polyphonic Motets of Lassus"
      • another monograph of Holmes' reflecting his interest in music
    • Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen
      • Written during his retirement in Sussex
  • Princess Irulan
    • Collected Sayings of Muad'Dib
      • This is one of several fictitious works by the character Irulan in the novel Dune which provide chapter quotes. Other works cited include:
        • A Child's History of Muad'Dib
        • Arrakis Awakening
        • Dictionary of Muad'Dib
        • Manual of Muad'Dib
  • C.S. Lewis
    • Books that Lucy sees while visiting the home of Mr. Tumnus the faun in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. No author listed.
      • The Life and Letters of Silenus
      • Is Man a Myth?
      • Men, Monks, and Gamekeepers; a Study in Popular Legend
      • Nymphs and Their Ways
    • Boxen and Scenes From Boxonian Life
      • Stories written in Lewis' childhood set in an imaginary world his brother Warner and he created populated by talking animals. Boxen was published posthumously by his literary executor, Walter Hooper.
    • After Ten Years
  • Dr Stephen Maturin / Esteban Maturin y Domanova
    • Tar-Water Reconsidered
    • Suggestions for the Amelioration of Sick-Bays
    • Thoughts on the Prevention of the Diseases most usual among Seamen
    • New Operation for Suprapubic Cystotomy
    • Tractatus de Novae Febris Ingressu ("Treatment of the onset of a new fever")
    • Remarks on Pezophaps Solitarious
    • Modest Proposals for the Preservation of Health in the Navy
    • The Diseases of Seamen
    • Mariners: Consensus and cohesion in certain states of adversity
    • Some remarks on Peruvian cirripedes
  • Dr Maturin's known publications consist mostly of learned papers - and those divided between his medical practice and his amateur interests in natural philosophy (primarily ornithology) - although his Diseases of Seamen was, at one point, much favoured by the Admiralty's "sick and hurt board" and considered a key text for naval doctors and surgeons.
  • To the above should also be added an unnamed paper on boobies (the seabird), said to be quite insightful but recorded as having been rather unsuccessfully delivered to the Paris Instituit.
  • Ralston McTodd
    • Songs of Squalor
      • A collection of impenetrable poetry by a renowned Canadian poet who visits Blandings Castle in P.G. Wodehouse's Leave it to Psmith. It's first immortal line reads: "Across the pale parabola of joy…"
  • Professor James Moriarty
    • A Treatise on Binomial Theorem
      • Moriarity won a chair at a small university at the age of 21 on the strength of this paper.
    • Dynamics of an Asteroid
      • "a book which ascends to such rarefied heights of pure mathematics that it is said that there was no man in the scientific press capable of criticising it."
  • Agnes Nutter
    • The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
      • A collection of prophecies by a 17th Century witch, that plays a major role in the novel Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The word "nice" in the title means "scrupulously exact", and her prophecies are just that.
  • Plato
    • Critias
      • This fragmentary dialogue is a follow-up to Timaeus and contains the bulk of Plato's account of the Lost Continent of Atlantis. The account breaks off, just when things are getting good.
    • Hermocrates
      • It is speculated that Plato originally intended to write an "Atlantis Trilogy" of which Hermocrates would be the final chapter, but he never got around to it; probably because he never finished the second part.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers
    • The Salesman's Handbook
      • In addition to her Lord Peter stories, Sayers wrote a few short stories featuring a traveling salesman named Mr. Montague Egg who also became involved with mysteries. He liked to quote aphorisms from the above named handbook.
  • William Shakespeare
    • The History of Cardenio
      • A play performed in 1613 and attributed to William Shakespeare and James Fletcher. Many scholars believe it was based on a character from Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote. The manuscript has been lost, although an 18th Century writer named Lewis Theobald claimed to have used it as the basis for his play The Double Falsehood.
    • Love's Labours Won
      • There are a couple references in Elizabethan sources of a play by Shakespeare with this name, but no manuscript of it has ever been found. It is believed to be either a sequel to his earlier play Love's Labours Lost, or an alternate title for one of his other comedies. It was used as a plot device in the Doctor Who episode "The Shakespeare Code"
    • The Murder of Gonzago
      • A play-within-a-play by an unknown author in Hamlet, which the prince has a troupe of actors perform
    • The Comedie of Robin Hoode, or, The Forest of Sherwoode
      • Referred to in Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens as an early lost play of Shakespeare's
    • Vortigern and Rowena
      • Actually an 18th hoax, a play that the author attempted to pass off as a lost Shakespeare work.
  • _ Slingsby
    • Strychnine in the Soup
      • A gripping mystery featuring not one, but two Faceless Fiends! From the P.G. Wodehouse short story of the same name. (Slingsby's first name is not given)
  • J.R.R. Tolkien
    • The Red Book of Westmarch
      • A collection of lore compiled by the Hobbits which Professor Tolkien claims was the source material for his books.
    • The Simarillion
      • Technically, this isn't lost because it was published and you can find it in any book store, right? Well, yes and no. The book as published is the result of a lot of editing and revision by Tolkien's son, Christopher. We don't know exactly what form the work would have taken had Tolkien himself completed it.
    • The Lost Road
      • J.R.R. Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis once made an agreement that each would write a science fiction story. Lewis's space travel story became Out of the Silent Planet. Tolkien began a story in which a father and son use a type of psychic time travel to visit the remote past and experience the destruction of Numenor — what we now know as "Atlantis". He never finished more that an outline and a couple chapters. Like every other scrap of story Tolkien ever wrote, these fragments have been incorporated into Christopher Tolkien's massive History of Middle-Earth.
  • Dr. John H. Watson
    • Unpublished Cases of Sherlock Holmes
      • In the Sherlock Holmes stories, Watson often makes reference to some of Holmes' other cases
        • The Abernetty Family Case, in which the depth by which parsley had sunk into butter was a vital clue — Six Napoleons
        • The cutter Alicia, which sailed one day into a patch of mist and never emerged — (Thor Bridge)
        • The Aluminum Crutch — (Musgrave Ritual) (before the Hall-Héroult process of refining the metal was discovered in 1889, aluminum was more valuable than gold!
        • The Amateur Mendicant Society — (Five Orange Pips)
        • The Conk-Singleton forgery case — (Six Napoleons)
        • The Two Coptic Patriarchs — (Retired Colourman)
        • The Dundas separation case, in which the wife wanted a divorce because her elderly husband threw his false teeth at her after meals — (Case of Identity)
        • The case of the Dutch steamship Friesland, in connection with which Holmes and Watson almost lost their lives — (Norwood Builder)
        • The singular adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa — (Five Orange Pips).
        • The adventure of the Paradol Chamber — (Five Orange Pips)
        • The loss of the Britsh barque Sophy Anderson — (Five Orange Pips)
        • A delicate matter involving the reigning family of Holland which Holmes refused to tell Watson about except that he was given a remarkably brilliant ring. — (A Case of Identity)
        • The affair of Colonel Warbuton's madness, a rare case which Watson brought to Holmes' attention — (The Engineer's Thumb)
        • The Second Stain, a case in which Holmes erred, but the truth was eventually discovered; involving matters of national importance and implicating many of the first families of the kingdom — (mentioned inThe Yellow Face and The Naval Treaty).
          • Note: There was a later published story entitled "The Second Stain", but it does not seem to match the brief description given in the teaser
        • The record of the Tarleton murders — (Musgrave Ritual)
        • Varnberry the Wine Merchant — (Musgrave Ritual)
        • The Adventure of the Old Russian Woman — (Musgrave Ritual)
        • Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife — (Musgrave Ritual)
        • The Adventure of the Tired Captain — (Naval Treaty)
        • The Giant Rat of Sumatra, "a story for which the world is not yet prepared." — (Sussex Vampire)
          • Sounds like Things Man Was Not Meant to Know…
  • Rex West
    • Mystery of the Pink Crayfish
      • A representative novel of Bertie Wooster's favorite author, crime writer Rex West. West is actually the pseudonym of a pretentious poet named Percy Gorringe, who writes mysteries to subsidize the artsier portion of his oeurve.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey
    • "Notes on the Collecting of Incunabula" by Lord Peter Wimsey
      • Referred to in a "Who's Who" style capsule biography of Wimsey; presumably a monograph on the subject of book-collecting (Lord Peter's other hobby), focusing on incunablula, or books printed before AD 1501.
    • "The Murderer's Vade-Mecum" by Lord Peter Wimsey
      • In the novel The Dawson Pedigree (American title: Unnatural Death) Lord Peter claims that he is going to write a book on how to commit the perfect crime and call it "The Murderer's Vade-Mecum" (a Latin term for a type of handbook). The title is listed as one of his achievements in his capsule biography, so apparently he finished it. Whether it was a full-length book or merely a monograph is not specified.
  • Various Ancient Greeks
    • The Epic Cycle
      • The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer survived, but offer an incomplete view of the Trojan War. We know from quotes and fragments that (at least) 6 other works of classical antiquity covered the events leading up to the war, and the 9 years of the war that the Iliad does not concern itself with.

Sources

Game and Story Use

  • A creative GM can use one of these fragmentary works as plot seeds
  • The missing manuscript for one of these lost works might turn up and serve as a MacGuffin
  • You can use a fictitious book as a piece of background for your campaign world, like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • A fictitious reference work can be used as an infodump. Simply print out a paragraph of important information and call it an article from the Encyclopaedia Galactia
    • Such spurious sources also make good pieces of flavor text and background material, as in the chapter quotes from Frank Herbert's Dune.
  • In a historical or time travel campaign, the PCs might be trying to save works to prevent them from becoming lost.
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