Monday, December 8, 2008

The Nursery Frieze

One of Edward Gorey's more enigmatic offerings is The Nursery Frieze. This small oblong book has orange wrappers and the pages inside show a procession of hippopotamus-like creatures (they may well be hippos) parading in single file emitting seemingly disjointed words. Scattered about the landscape are large letters which seem random until you realize they string together to spell out - The Nursery Frieze by Edward Gorey.

The front cover of The Nursery Frieze has a large number 15 and on the reverse, is the word TWO. This signifies that this is Mr. Gorey's fifteenth published book and it is the second volume published by his Fantod Press. This title was published in an edition of 500 unnumbered copies and appears in Amphigorey Too. My copy is signed by Mr. Gorey (not all copies are signed).

What makes this book unique is that Edward Gorey created drawings that could be enlarged and used as a wallpaper frieze to go around the top of a room. That he calls it a frieze for a nursery implies that it will entertain and instruct the young inhabitant of the room. But with words such as dismemberment, mistrust and remorse, perhaps this frieze is actually intended for the nursery of The Beastly Baby! If this is an instructional frieze, then most of the words need to be looked up by many readers. Examples: etui, ganosis, thurible, accismus. It would have been interesting to play Scrabble with EG!

Photostat enlargements of this book were made by Gotham Book Mart and used as decoration for their booth at a New York Book Fair. Some of these enlargements were on display in the "old" Gotham on 47th Street positioned near the ceiling. These "full sized" papers have appeared on the market recently through Bromer Booksellers.


Anonymous said...

I believe they are capybaras! I just accidentally came across a picture of capybaras on google, and my first thought was, "so THAT'S the animal Gorey used for the Nursery Frieze!"...and then I looked for images of the Nursery Frieze and that's how I came across your blog.

ampootozote said...

ok...I will have to look those creatures up! Glad you found the blog...hope you enjoy it!

Unknown said...

i've searched the bromer bookseller website and have been unable to find it... perhaps you would know if it was under a different name than the nursery frieze or something... or where else i can get the full size paper border. thank you very much.

ampootozote said...

My guess is that Bromer has sold this item, but you can always email them and ask. This is truly a very rare Gorey item. I have only seen this twice in 30 years, and only offered for sale once (it was expensive). Because they are photostat enlargements meant to be used as a booth display, they also showed signs of age. It would be fun if there were prints made that could actually be used - like the Dracula wall paper.

crenshaw sepulveda said...

I actually have a set of the photostat copies of the Nursery Frieze that I got from the Gotham Book Mart very many years ago, signed by Mr. Gorey I suspect as I only had signed everything by Mr Gorey. I had no idea that they were printed for booth decorations. Haven't seen them in a very long time but I'm sure they are still in the original tube from the Gotham Book Mart. It just breaks my heart that the GBM is no longer around. Where will the wise men fish?

Bob Richmond said...

What nobody seems to have noticed - the odd words if read out loud form dactylic tetrameter couplets, often a bit irregular, but you can hear the meter.

gávelkind túrmeric ímbat cedílla
cassátion hendíadys quíncunx vanílla

The whole thing is in Amphigorey Too.

ampootozote said...

It is also fun to read The Untitled Book aloud. While The Nursery Frieze uses real words, The Untitled Book is a complete fabrication...and a good tongue twister!