In late 1937, the death of Howard Phillips Lovecraft prompted his two friends, August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, to gather a collection of Lovecraft's best weird fiction from the pulp magazines into a memorial volume. However, after several attempts to place the omnibus volume with major hardcover publishers without any success, the two men realized that no publisher would be willing to take a chance with the collection. Derleth and Wandrei thus decided to form their own company, Arkham House (Its name based on a town featured in many of Lovecraft's stories) with the expressed purpose of publishing all of Lovecraft's writings in hardcover. The omnibus volume was scheduled as the first offering from Arkham House, with a price of $5.00, while advance orders were accepted at $3.50 each. Even at that bargain price, only 150 orders were received for The Outsider and Others before its appearance in 1939.
The Outsider was printed by the George Banta Co. of Wisconsin, in an edition of 1268 copies. The book was over 550 pages long, with small print, and featured a jacket by fantasy artist Virgil Finlay. The omnibus sold slowly but steadily. Derleth was a successful writer and had a good deal of revenue coming in from his work not connected with publishing. He could afford to keep Arkham House going without the company realizing a quick profit.
A second Lovecraft omnibus, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, appeared in 1943 as sales on all Arkham House books continued to advance. By 1944, Arkham House was established as a successful small press, with four titles appearing (collections of works by Donald Wandrei, Henry S. Whitehead, Clark Ashton Smith, and a final Lovecraft omnibus). In 1945, Arkham House widened its range by publishing two novels, neither of which had seen print in any form before. These wereWitch Houseby Evangeline Walton andThe Lurker at the Thresholdby August Derleth (based on an outline by H.P. Lovecraft). Derleth also widened Arkham's range by publishing collections of stories by well-known English fantasy authors, the first being Green Tea and Other Ghost Storiesby J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Collections by Englishmen A.E. Coppard, H. Russell Wakefield, William Hope Hodgson and Algernon Blackwood followed in 1947. Also in 1947 were books by three American writers, including the science fiction novel Slan by A.E. Van Vogt. Derleth must have felt he was in the wrong field as Slan, with a print run of over 4,000 copies proved to be the fastest and best selling Arkham House of the 1940s.
Arkham House published many books in the fantasy and horror field including a small but steady number throughout the 1950s. Robert Weinberg has written that: "However, intense competition from the SF (science fiction) small presses as well as slow sales of certain titles put August Derleth in a precarious bind. Only a generous loan from Dr David H. Keller prevented Arkham from going bankrupt during a period of cash flow problems in 1948. Keller visited Derleth's home, "The Place of Hawks" in the company of Sam Moskowitz, the object of the visit being Derleth agreeing to publish a Keller book under the Arkham House imprint, Keller to advance Derleth a loan against the cost of the book. Derleth revealed to Keller and Moskowitz that he owed his printer $2500 and had exhausted every possible source of help. Upon Keller's return to his home in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, he wrote a check for the needed sum and sent it to Derleth as a loan at 35% interest on Derleth's personal note. Reporting the transaction in Thirty Years of Arkham House, Derleth adds: "I had not asked for it; he had offered it with the comment, 'I pride myself on my judgment of character.' No greater compliment could have been paid me or Arkham House.' 
In the late 1960s Arkham House seemed on the verge of going bankrupt, but suddenly found a whole new market for its books when the surge in interest in Robert E. Howard (capitalized upon by Donald M. Grant) coincided with a surge in interest in the work of H.P. Lovecraft. All of Lovecraft's works were reprinted in three newly edited omnibus volumes, which were kept continually in print.
In addition to volumes of H. P. Lovecraft's fiction, Arkham House began to publish a five volume edition of Lovecraft's Selected Letters which had been planned from the very start of the company, and which gives an overview of Lovecraft's correspondence to peers, friends and family. Among his correspondents were Arkham House founders, Derleth and Wandrei. (Arkham House's volumes of Lovecraft's letters are highly abridged; unabridged volumes of Lovecraft's letters to individual correspondents have been issued progressively by Hippocampus Press). After a long slow period, Arkham House entered the 1970s with ambitious publishing plans.
Despite the wealth of talented writers who appeared under the Arkham House imprint, it was not a financial success. Derleth wrote in 1970, "[T]he fact is that in no single year since its founding have the earnings of Arkham House met the expenses, so that it has been necessary for my personal earnings to shore up Arkham House finances." Robert Weinberg has stated "Arkham House's greatest flop was Witch House, an excellent novel that took nearly two decades to go out of print."
After Derleth's death in 1971, Donald Wandrei briefly acted as editorial director but declined to resume his interest in the firm permanently.
August Derleth's children April (Rose) and Walden (Wally) Derleth now co-owned the publisher, April running the business while Wally had no direct involvement in its day-to-day operations. April earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1977. She became majority stockholder, President, and CEO of Arkham House in 1994, in which capacity she remained until her death.
In 1997, Peter Ruber was appointed as her consulting editor and successor to James Turner. April became president of Arkham House in 2002. She made the house’s mission a return to classic weird fiction, which Ruber sought to do. Ruber drew criticism for the hostile opinions of various authors he expressed in his story introductions within Arkham's Masters of Horror (2000). Rumors of his ill-health circulated for some time; he eventually suffered a stroke and his editorial duties at Arkham House lapsed due to this.
The house's publishing schedule slowed considerably between 2000-2006, with only nine books issued—In the Stone House by Barry N. Malzberg (2000); Book of the Dead by E. Hoffmann Price (a collection of memoirs of writers known by Price, 2001); Arkham House's Masters of Horror (ed. Peter Ruber, 2000); The Far Side of Nowhere by Nelson Bond (2002); The Cleansing by John D. Harvey (a horror novel, 2002); Selected Letters of Clark Ashton Smith (ed. Scott Connors, 2003); Cave of a Thousand Tales by Milt Thomas (a biography of pulp writer Hugh B. Cave, 2004); Other Worlds Than Ours, another collection by Nelson Bond (2005); and Evermore (a collection of tales in tribute to Edgar Allan Poe, ed. James Robert Smith & Stephen Mark Rainey, 2006).
In early 2009 it was announced that George Vanderburgh of Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, and Robert Weinberg, would jointly take over the editorial duties at Arkham House. That year Battered Silicon Dispatch Box issued four new volumes of stories by August Derleth under the umbrella title "The Macabre Quarto" under a joint imprint with Arkham House, which constituted the latter's only output since 2006.
In 2010 The Arkham Sampler (1948-49) was reissued in a limited ed (250 sets) two-volume facsimile reprint of the now-rare magazine issued by Arkham House that ran four issues a year 1948-1949. This work was issued by Arkham House co-published with the August Derleth Society. In the same year Jon Lellenberg's novel Baker Street Irregular was issued under the Mycroft and Moran imprint.
After April Derleth
George Vanderburgh's blog at Battered Silicon Dispatch Box announced a number of Arkham House titles for 2011 and after, none of which had appeared as of January 2017 due to April Derleth's death on March 21, 2011. The publisher's website announced in April 2011 that her children would take over the running of the firm. Danielle Jacobs was named President, and her brother Damon Derleth as Vice President.
No books have recently been issued under the Arkham House imprint. Books had previously been published almost every year from 1939 to 2010 (except for 1940, 1955/56, and 2006), so the current seven-year gap from 2011-17 where nothing whatsoever has been published now marks the lowest point thus far in Arkham House's publishing fortunes. Due to editor George Vanderburghs' advanced age and editor Robert Weinberg's death in September 2016, there are unlikely to be any new titles for the foreseeable future. Some have seen this as an indication that Arkham House, which was the last of the golden age small press publishing houses, has effectively become defunct.
The press is currently in business. They have reprinted some backlist titles and do plan to produce new titles. However the press has been in 'Estate Hell' since April Derleth's death. Her health and personal problems also ran down the company's finances prior to her death. The fact that her last few books were commercial flops (the last being Evermore) did not help matters. However the Estate is wrapped up and new books may appear.
Current owners are April Derleth's children Danielle and Damon. They manage the business themselves and since her death have made progress, paying off massive debt, and saving the family home in the process. All that has precluded work on new books, though thought has been given to the matter.
Danielle and Damon Derleth signed an agreement in April 2017 with an author named David Marcum to produce new Solar Pons adventures to expand upon those of Derleth and Copper (not to be published by Arkham House, but possibly a sign of activity to come).
Arkham House published under two additional imprints during its history.
In 1945 the Mycroft & Moran imprint was launched for the publication of weird detective and mystery stories, including Derleth's Solar Pons series. The title of the imprint was inspired by characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories: Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes, and the villain Colonel Sebastian Moran. Some Mycroft and Moran titles since 1993 have also been issued by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box.
Arkham also introduced Stanton & Lee Publishers in 1945 with the intention of publishing cartoons by Clare Victor Dwiggins. Stanton & Lee Publishers went on to publish poetry and the regional writings of August Derleth.
Additionally, August Derleth sub-contracted certain books which were nominally published by Arkham House to other publishers, including Pellegrini and Cudahy of New York, and Villiers Publications of England.
Barrett, Mike. "Arkham House: Sundry Observations". Dark Horizons (Mar 2010); expanded reprint in his Doors to Elsewhere. Cheadle, Staffordshire UK: Alchemy Press, 2013, pp. 17–43.
Heffley, C. E. "Arkham House: A Remembrance" in David Barker, ed. The Lovecrafter - 100th Anniversary issue: An Anthology in Celebration of the Centennial of the Birth of H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1990). Salem, OR: David Barker, 1990: 29-32.
Lorraine, Daniel W. "Collecting Lovecraft Arkhams". The New Lovecraft Collector No 1 (Winter 1993), p. 4.
Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923-1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd.