In 2005, I created an Amazon Listmania! called “The Complete Vampirologist’s Library“—an ambitious title for a list 13 books. Nonetheless, I’d still recommend them—even though my tastes have shifted onto works with greater academic emphasis.
Niels K. Petersen mentioned the list on his blog (2007c). Quite an honour, too, especially as my default option for buying vampire books is this: if Petersen recommends it, buy it.
Several items on the list still cater to my academic preferences, while others like Teresa Moorey’s Vampires: A Beginner’s Guide (2000) and Nigel Jackson’s The Compleat Vampyre: The Vampyre Shaman, Werewolves, Witchery & the Dark Mythology of the Undead (1995) are interesting purely for their esoteric angles. Unfortunately, that also means their reliability’s questionable. Caveat emptor.
I’m also not as keen on Matthew Bunson’s 1993 vampire encyclopedia¹ as I used to be. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t recommend it now except as a jumping point for chasing up various leads. Its errors aside, its entries are uncited and its bibliography incomplete. I know that goes for most encyclopedias—not just vampire ones—but why settle for less when you’d be much better off with J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead (1994; 1999; 2011)—also on the list—which incorporates citations in its entries. Go with that one, instead.
Speaking of vampire encyclopedias (but one that isn’t on the Amazon list), I went gaga for Theresa Bane’s Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology (2010) on my old blog (Hogg 2011)—except I’m not so certain about it now. For instance, its zemu entry says “It is the only vampire that does not cast a reflection in a mirror” (Bane 2010, 153), yet none of the entry’s sources mention its lack of reflection. Worse, one of the citations actually says “the hero is a dragon (zmeu) and not a vampire” (Murgoci 1998, 28).² Petersen (2012) also uncovered other glaring errors in the book.
So, what books would I recommend now? After all, my non-fiction vampire book collection’s grown substantially since I created the Amazon list. I’ve catalogued most of them on LibraryThing (Hogg 2013)—and it doesn’t include the various articles and periodical publications I’ve amassed.
Firstly, I’d certainly recommend more than 13 books for a “complete vampirologist’s library”. I would’ve recommended more back then, too, but a “complete vampirologist’s library” is a much catchier title than “These books will give you reasonably sufficient, yet substantial, knowledge about vampires.” In that spirit, and for brevity’s sake, I’m going to narrow the scope even further.
My up-to-date recommendations stick my preferred field: vampire folklore. These books are extremely comprehensive and cater to my academic sensibilities. They’ll turn you into an insta-expert on the subject. What I’m saying is, you won’t need to stray too far from them, and buying them all—not necessarily at the same time, of course—won’t break the bank. You needn’t worry about their academic nature deterring you, either; they’re all very readable. In fact, I read one of ’em when I was 12. Meanwhile, I need a codebreaker for Laurence A. Rickels’ The Vampire Lectures (1999).
Unfortunately, I couldn’t include foreign language titles because I can only speak/read English. Can’t recommend what I can’t read. I’ve heard good things about Daniela Soloviova-Horville’s Les vampires : du folklore slave à la littérature occidentale (2011), though. For foreign language recommendations, read Petersen’s blog, Magia Posthuma. He’s good for English language recommendations, too.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s my recommendations in order of preference. Let the countdown begin:
#5. Bruce A. McClelland, Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead (2006)
Many vampire hunting guides have been published over the years. Most are tongue-in-cheek. Think Gianna Sobol and Michael McMillian’s A Field Guide to Vampires (And Other Creatures of Satan) (2013). At least one’s meant to be taken seriously—Sean Manchester’s The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide (1997)—but as one reviewer noted,
If the book had been called “Details of my feuds with David Farrant and other occultists” it would have been more relevant. For, that is what this book actually is. At £7.50 you get 96 pages. Out of those 96 pages I reckon that well over half deals with Manchester’s feuds with David Farrant etc. (Gilham 2004).
In other words, it’s garbage.
McClelland’s book, on the other hand, is the first book—certainly the first academic one—I’m aware of that’s actually about vampire hunters. Its title riffs on Buffy, but goes much deeper than that, tracing their history well beyond Van Helsing, with strong emphasis on Bulgarian folklore and the vampire hunter’s role in society—a carry-over from his dissertation, Sacrifice, Scapegoat, Vampire: The Social and Religious Origins of the Bulgarian Folkloric Vampire (1999).
#4. Alan Dundes (ed.), The Vampire: A Casebook (1998)
A brilliant primer. This one’s a collection of previously-published essays by various authors covering folklore in Romania, Greece, Eastern European and South Slavic regions. Dundes wrote a fresh one for the book, though: “The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A Psychoanalytic Post Mortem.”
Since buying the book many moons ago, I’ve obtained copies of most of the articles featured from their original publications. I’m a sucker for primary sources. Nonetheless, Dundes’ annotations are invaluable—I particularly enjoy his discussion on why “myth” shouldn’t be applied to vampire stories. The annotations are also useful for background info on the respective authors, as well as mentioning other relevant works on the subjects they cover and the book concludes with “A Selected Bibliography: Suggestions for Further Reading of the Vampire.” Perfect.
#3. David Keyworth, Troublesome Corpses: Vampires & Revenants from Antiquity to the Present (2007)
Just like McClelland’s work, Keyworth’s book expands on the author’s university dissertation. In this case, The Undead: An Unnatural History of Vampires and Troublesome Corpses in Western Europe from the Medieval Period to the Twentieth Century (2006). That same year, his work was condensed into an article for Folklore called “Was the Vampire of the Eighteenth Century a Unique Type of Undead-corpse?”—which gives you an idea of the crux of Keyworth’s work.
Keyworth bucks the “universal vampire” concept which holds that vampires are found in cultures all over the world—but only if you distil elements from which we derived the vampire template via Slavic sources. The bloodsucking element is paramount and, as Keyworth establishes, there’s precious little evidence for this primary characteristic beyond the 18th century.
Don’t think the book’s scope is too narrow, though. Keyworth combs through various traits associated with vampires and compares them with other folkloric beings. The section on the Icelandic draugr is particularly interesting.
Remember what I said about my default option for buying vampire books? Yep, this one was recommended by Petersen (2007a; 2007b).
#2. Paul Barber, Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (1988; 2010)
That book I read when I was 12? This is it. After all these years, I’m still impressed by it. Barber frames vampire folklore in forensic pathology, following in the footsteps of 18th century authors—except his science doesn’t rely on outdated concepts like vestigium vitae (see Keyworth’s book for info on that). He argues that the peasants who encountered vampires primarily through exhumations were onto something—just not something supernatural.
Barber’s book was reprinted in 2010 with a new cover, preface and revised index. The preface retracts his why-vampires-were-staked-in-the-first-place theory (something along the lines of stopping them from floating to the surface) and also shares his thoughts on the vampire genre, post-Twilight. If I had to recommend a single book as a starter, this’d be it. In fact, it was the book I bought for my ” “vampyre” enthusiast” friend’s birthday a few years ago (Hogg 2010).
#1. Jan Louis Perkowski, Vampire Lore: From the Writings of Jan Louis Perkowski (2006)
This spot could’ve easily been filled by Perkowski’s 1989 book, The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism, but this one wins on sheer size and value. Not counting its preface—written by Bruce A. McClelland, no less—it clocks in at 618 pages.
The bulk of the book’s content is taken up by republishing Perkowski’s three vampire monographs: Vampires, Dwarves, and Witches Among the Ontario Kashubs (1972); his university reader, Vampires of the Slavs (1976); and The Darkling, but goes well beyond that by reprinting pretty much everything article or chapter he’s had published on vampires, too. It’s so comprehensive, you’d probably only need one other essay to complete your Perkowski boxset: “Shamanism as a Source for the Slavic Folkloric Vampire.” It’s in Balkanistica 28 (2007).
Can I say enough good things about this book? Well, the monograph endnotes have been converted into footnotes, which makes the citations much more accessible. The book also closes with a never-before-published article, “Charting a Course on Vampires”, which is intended to help lecturers create their own vampire course. Brilliant stuff. The worst thing I can say about this mighty tome is: it has no index. Otherwise, you’ll get by fine with Perkowski’s monumental vampire scholarship.
I bought my copy direct from its publisher, Slavica, a few years ago. But before purchasing it, I made a request: could Perkowski sign it? He did. As you can guess, the book’s one of my most prized possessions. Copies are available for US$38.43 on Amazon. An absolute bargain.
This post’s actually a preface to a new series I’m kicking off on this blog: “Vampire Library.” It’ll feature guest posts from other writers involved in the vampire field, discussing books they’d recommend. My own collection’s been enriched by such recommendations and I’m sure yours will be, too. Stay tuned!
¹ Best-known by its original title, The Vampire Encyclopedia—the copy on the list and the one I own, is the 1993 British version. It’s one of the earliest vampire books I owned and had a big impact on my then-burgeoning vampire interest (Hogg 2009).
² Murgoci’s article was originally published in Folk-lore 37 (4) (1926): 320–49. The corresponding quote appears on page 341. The closest vampire thing it has to a vampire inference in Murgoci’s article is “A typical vampire of the reanimated-corpse type may have the attributes of a lover, as in Scott’s William and Helen. The zmeu may also be such a lover” (321).
Bane, Theresa. 2010. Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Gilham, P. 2004. “Does Not Do What It Says on the Tin…” Review of The Vampire Hunter’s Handbook: A Concise Vampirological Guide, by Sean Manchester. Amazon, July 18. Accessed November 29, 2013. http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R20Y8QWQABL5DG/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1872486029&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=.
Hogg, Anthony. 2005. “The Complete Vampirologist’s Library.” Amazon. Last updated September 12. Accessed November 28, 2013. http://www.amazon.com/lm/276ATV8C2G1F9/ref=cm_pdp_lm_title_1.
———. 2009. “Why I’m an Amateur Vampirologist.” VampChix, October 23. http://vampchix.blogspot.com/2009/10/vampirologist-anyone.html.
———. 2010. “Second Anniversary.” Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist, July 30. http://doaav.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/second-anniversary.html.
———. 2011. “Aww, My First Criticism!” Diary of an Amateur Vampirologist, January 31. http://doaav.blogspot.com.au/2011/01/aww-my-first-criticism.html.
———. 2013. “vampirologist’s books.” LibraryThing. Accessed November 2013. http://www.librarything.com/catalog/vampirologist.
Murgoci, Agnes. 1998. “The Vampire in Roumania.” In The Vampire: A Casebook, edited by Alan Dundes, 12–34. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Petersen, Niels K. 2007a. “Shroudeater and other Troublesome Corpses.” Magia Posthuma, July 15. http://magiaposthuma.blogspot.dk/2007/07/shroudeater-and-other-troublesome.html.
———. 2007b. “Troublesome Corpses.” Magia Posthuma, July 26. http://magiaposthuma.blogspot.dk/2007/07/troublesome-corpses.html.
———. 2007c. “Vampire Bibliographies.” Magia Posthuma, September 9. http://magiaposthuma.blogspot.dk/2007/09/vampire-bibliographies.html.
———. 2012. “Vampire Species.” Magia Posthuma, November 4. http://magiaposthuma.blogspot.dk/2012/11/vampire-species.html.
Update: October 20, 2014
The #1 entry previously featured a photo of the book’s title page, with Perkowski’s autograph and the inscription, “For Anthony with all best wishes.” It appeared after the “But before purchasing it, I made a request: could Perkowski sign it?” line. I have removed the photo by request and added “He did” after that sentence and joined the follow-up line, “As you can guess . . . ” to make it a single paragraph. The is no longer the post’s “Featured Image”, either.
In lieu of that picture, I have added an image of Ruper Giles (Anthony Head) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, via Mark A. McCutcheon’s blog post, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Research as a Public Good,” Academicalism (October 1, 2012) toward the top of this post. It’s now also the “Featured Image” of this post, too.
Oh, and while I was at it, I also added lines between the entries. They seemed too naked without ’em.