9

In H. P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, the narrator explains,

It is an unfortunate fact that relatively obscure men like myself and my associates, connected only with a small university.... As a geologist my object in leading the Miskatonic University Expedition was wholly that of securing deep-level specimens of rock and soil from various parts of the antarctic continent....

How big is Miskatonic University? Is it more or less the same size as comparable US or even international universities of the 1920's, or is there a notable smallness compared with institutions such as Harvard or Yale?

Miskatonic University has a copy of the Necronomicon, and they apparently have access to enough funds (internal funds and/or research grants) to fund an expedition to Antarctica, so they do not appear to be completely obscure and unimportant. Is the narrator here being ironic or humble, or is Miskatonic U really of such small size as to be considered nearly non-notable in the ordinary circles of Academia in the Cthulhu Mythos? Does Lovecraft give us any information such as student enrollment, faculty size, endowment, etc. that would allow a basis for a comparison?

  • I don't think Lovecraft ever describes Miskatonic Uni in any great depth; perhaps other writers whose work derive from Lovecraft's fleshes it out. Would you be looking for descriptions from within his own works only? – user107907 Dec 13 '18 at 15:03
  • @Kozaky I'll accept other writers too if there is nothing in Lovecraft that covers this. – Robert Columbia Dec 13 '18 at 15:04
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    For physical size, which of course doesn't necessarily equate to prestige or funding, look for Lovecraft's hand-drawn map of Arkham - maybe that will help. – LAK Dec 13 '18 at 15:23
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It is a number of times implied that Miskatonic is one of the major universities in New England*. In particular, it seems to be comparable to Harvard. Both universities have copies of the Necronomicon, and they are mentioned side by side in "The Dunwich Horror":

Some of the Whateleys and Bishops still send their eldest sons to Harvard and Miskatonic, though those sons seldom return to the mouldering gambrel roofs under which they and their ancestors were born.

In the 1930s, Harvard had about 5000 undergraduates, so I imagine Miskatonic's numbers would have been comparable.

*My personal headcanon is that the four protagonists in Silverberg's The Book of Skulls were students at Miskatonic.

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7

An Atlas of Fantasy 1973, 1979, by J.B. Post, has a map of Arkham, Mass. with buildings of Miskatonic University. I think it is a fan map based on Lovecraft's own map of Arkham.

The map can give an idea of the physical size of Miskatonic U.

Here is a link to an online copy of Lovecraft's map.

https://www.google.com/search?q=map+of+arkham+massachusetts&newwindow=1&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=sy5LKekV9f7l7M%253A%252CawwQrKiKMH_iVM%252C_&usg=AI4_-kR9Mjz_2Wxn9I6fDIExz1P-jWw5Mg&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj1m-2MtJ3fAhUHJt8KHXu0ArMQ9QEwDXoECAQQHg#imgrc=PfYVDC1E0NLUbM:1

I note that some academic institutions can be called universities despite have quite small physical size.

The Center for Advanced Judaic Studies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a successor of Dropsie College, later Dropsie Univeristy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Advanced_Judaic_Studies2

You can see that the original building at Broad and York Streets in Philadelphia is not gigantic and the original campus size is listed as two acres.

Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, has a rather small campus, with three main buildings, 11.5 acres, and an academic staff of 377.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salus_University3

I expect that the largest universities are tens, and quite possibly hundreds, of times as large, no matter how size is measured, than the smallest universities.

Therefore, I guess that whatever size campus or number of students you might estimate that Miskatonic University has in the stories would fall within the wide range of university sizes.

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