Monday, November 3, 2008

The Bug Book

The Bug Book is one of Edward Gorey's cuter novellas. The story has all the happiness, drama, trauma and retribution of many a classic novel. This deceptively simple story focuses on some brightly colored bugs whose contented lives are threatened when a bully bug disrupts their happy existence. The beleaguered bugs hold a secret meeting and deal with the interloper in a permanent way, later enjoying their victory over the dreaded foe.

Originally conceived as a 1959 Christmas greeting, the privately printed paperback first edition of this book is Mr. Gorey's first limited edition book. Only 600 copies were produced under the Looking Glass Library imprint and it was meant to be used as a holiday keepsake by the publishers. This is also Edward Gorey's first story to appear in color, albeit simplistic primary colors.

My paperback 1st/limited edition of this title is signed by Mr. Gorey and also has the personal library stamp of Charles Paul Helsell inside the front cover. Mr. Helsell was chief curator of Edward Gorey's 1968 "Books and Drawings" exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (and a consultant for the 1984 MIA Gorey show). I met Mr. Helsell when I lent pieces for the '84 show and it was a nice surprise to find his name inside the cover when I purchased this copy in later years. Due to the age of this title and the white binding, it can be difficult to find a nice clean exterior on this book.

Knowing a good thing when they had it, Ms. Carroll and Mssrs Gorey & Epstein went ahead and printed a hardcover trade edition of The Bug Book in 1960 under the Epstein and Carroll imprint. My first trade hardcover is signed by Mr. Gorey and inscribed to me. The Bug Book appears in Amphigorey and was reprinted by Adama Books. The Adama reprint is a hard back book without dust wrapper and some of the colors in the illustrations were printed incorrectly.

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