This book is one of the true classics of the modern age (well, early modern age) of fantasy fiction. The cover illustration by Virgil Finlay is classic too. Finlay was one of the true artists who knew fantasy / science fiction as sort of an extra part of himself.
If you're not familiar with A. Merrit's work, here's a link for you about him: A. Merrit.
One of the quotes I like best is this:
What sets Merritt apart from the typical pulp author, however, is his lush, florid prose style and his exhaustive, at times exhausting, penchant for adjective-laden detail. Merritt's fondness for micro-description nicely complements the pointillistic style of Bok's illustrations, and often serves to highlight and radicalize the inherent fetishistic tendencies of pulp sf.
Micro-description. I hadn't thought of that word, but it does make sense. The Ship of Ishtar was one of his best efforts (along with The Moon Pool ). Today his work doesn't hold up as well due to the verbosity of the language, but the concepts are strong and his work is still prized as pioneering in the fantasy genre. The fact that he influenced H. P. Lovecraft helps too.
As for Virgil Finlay and his craft -- here's some info on him as well: Virgil Finlay..
It's a cool book.
I wish I could say I've read it, but I haven't (yet).
Now I'm off to find more books!