Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Vinegar Works

1963 brought forth what is un- doubtedly Edward Gorey's best known and most quoted book - The Gash- lycrumb Tinies. Published by Simon and Schuster, New York, TGT is one of three hardcover books that formed The Vinegar Works, Three Volumes of Moral Instruction. The other two books in the set are The Insect God and The West Wing. All three books are reprinted in Amphigorey.

Published together as a three volume set, The Vinegar Works is the first time that Edward Gorey released three new titles at one time packaged in a boxed set. In the upcoming Three Books from the Fantod Press I, II, III & IV, Gorey would continue to release multiple books which had to be purchased as sets. The Vinegar Works has the most elaborate slipcase design EG would ever design, with each of the five sides having new artwork specifically designed to showcase the books contained within.

What can be said about The Gashlycrumb Tinies that hasn't been written before? From Amy who fell down the stairs to Zillah who drank too much gin, this classic Gorey alphabet book shows the perils that await unwary youth. This is probably Edward Gorey's most reprinted title. It appears in book form, on tee shirts, posters and is readily available today.

Book two of the trilogy of moral instruction is The Insect God. This book was reprinted in 1986, and can still be found in hardcover. In this story, giant bugs kidnap and destroy poor little Millicent Frastly in a ghastly ritual. Should this book be required reading for all children about the dangers of accepting sweets and rides from strangers? Quite possibly...

The West Wing is a collection of drawings of rooms. This book has no text and none is needed. The settings go from unsettling to unusual and it is one of Gorey's more enigmatic books. It has been widely reported that Mr. Gorey dedicated this volume to Edmund Wilson after receiving repeated literary criticism from Mr. Wilson that many of EG's texts were found to be wanting when compared to his illustrations. Therefore, Gorey gave him a book to review with no words!

The three volumes I have are all signed and inscribed by Mr. Gorey. This set was included in the exhibition Gorey Stories, Books and Drawings by Edward Gorey in the Leslie Memorial Room of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1984/1985.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Willowdale Handcar

After publishing three books with Obolensky in 1961, Edward Gorey moved to The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. of Indianapolis/New York in 1962. The Willowdale Handcar is his first excursion with this new publisher, and the paperback book matches the Obolensky titles in general size and format.

My 1st/1st is signed and inscribed by Mr. Gorey. This title was pub- lished in hardcover with a matching dust jacket in 1979 by Dodd Mead & Company of New York. This title appears in Amphigorey. This title was last reprinted in 2003 and is currently available as a single book.

The Willowdale Handcar is a rather charming travel book with sinister undertones. Edna, Harry and Sam embark on a cross country excursion "one summer afternoon" by liberating a handcar from the Willowdale train station and setting out to see "if anything was doing". While hand pumping their way cross country (or state) on the railway handcar, we get glimpses of unusual happenings occurring to characters around them which are of course, the main story of the book.

This book has some of EG's more memorable place names including Bogus Corners, Chutney Falls, Peevish Gorge, Hiccupborro, and my personal favorite, Penetralia. The Crampton Vinegar Works, the Halfbath Methodist Church and the Weedhaven Laughing Academy are all places the trio stop at or pass by during their journey.

The entire story has a the feel of an epic silent film by D. W. Griffith and this book is appropriately dedicated to silent film actress Lillian Gish. Lillian Gish was born in 1893 and had her first film roll with Griffith in 1912. She continued acting well into her 90's, and died in 1993 at age 99. I had the good fortune to see Lillian Gish in person in the autumn of 1986 when she came to Minneapolis for Cinecon 22, a film convention which that year was dedicated to the memory of her sister, silent film actress Dorothy Gish. Introduced and prompted by Lenard Malton, Miss Gish talked about her sister, working with Griffith and finally introduced the film Orphans of the Storm, which had recently been restored at that time. I have a lovely vintage signed photograph of Lillian Gish in my collection.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Edward Ardizzone

Edward Gorey had many artistic influences. He was not only a voracious reader and cultural observer, but an inveterate dance (theater) attendee, art lover, music appreciator and television junkie. In short, Edward Gorey was a cultural sponge! When asked to name some artists who influenced his work, one name that frequently came up was that of illustrator Edward Ardizzone. Ardizzone was born in 1900 and died of a heart attack in 1979. He was British and began illustrating books in the 1930's.

It is easy to see why Ardizzone's work appealed to Mr. Gorey. Stylistically they are very similar, though Ardizzone's line work never achieves the level of sophistication that Mr. Gorey practiced. Ardizzone's work is more akin to EG's early work, however Ardizzone tended to be much more cute and cuddly in his subject matter than Gorey ever was. As an illustrator, Ardizzone was known for hand lettering the titles and author's names on the covers of the books he illustrated. Perhaps EG remembered seeing these books as a child and emulated the illustrator in his own career. Like Mr. Gorey, Edward Ardizzone was a prolific illustrator who enjoyed a long career and his works are collected today.

I have one original Ardizzone illustration in my collection. When I ran across this image I thought it was one of the more interesting and less saccharine images I had seen (though it is still pretty high on the cute meter!). It comes from a book of stories titled Sailor Rumbelow and Britannia by James Reeves. This book was published in 1962 By William Heinemann Ltd, London.

In this charming drawing, gnomes are running amok in an English country house garden at night. It appears on page 42 as an illustration for The Gnome Factory. I received a first edition copy of the book as a gift from my partner after I acquired the artwork.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Beastly Baby

Published in 1962, The Beastly Baby was actually the first book Edward Gorey tried to shop around to publishers in the early 1950's, but kept getting rejected. Gorey shelved this story until, using the anagram Ogdread Weary, he finally self published this title to get it in print.

Founding The Fantod Press, EG began what would become a mini publishing empire unto himself. The Fantod Press only ever published limited edition works by Mr. Gorey and he would continue to publish under this imprint until 1997's The Deadly Blotter.

The Beastly Baby has all the earmarks of an early Gorey work. The drawings, while finished, are sketchy and broad in their execution. The story is startling and irreverent. The subject matter is distasteful. This book is therefore a must have for all Goreyphiles!

The Beastly Baby was first published in an edition of 500 copies, and can be something of a Holy Grail for Gorey collectors. This title appears in Amphigorey Too. My 1st/limited edition copy of this title is signed by Mr. Gorey as Ogdread Weary. It was not available in print (apart from being included in Amphigorey Too) until 1995 when the first hardcover edition in dust jacket was published by Peter Weed Books. The hardcover 1st has a title page drawing that does not appear in the original printing. My copy of the hardcover is signed.

There were a number of Gorey books reprinted over the years by the Swiss publisher Diogenes as uniformly sized slender paperback books. These reprints were collected in slipcased sets with a translation booklet included in each set, but these copies were never readily available in the United States. Diogenes did publish a copy of The Beastly Baby.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

1961 - A Busy Year For Edward Gorey

One wonders how Edward Gorey got so much work done at this point in his career. He had to have kept extra large ink bottles and stacks of illustration board on hand in his tiny New York apartment to get through as much artwork as he did during the next decade.

In 1961, books illustrated by Mr. Gorey included Quake, Quake, Quake: A Leaden Volume of English Verse by Paul Dehn; The Man Who Sang the Sillies by John Ciardi, Scrap Irony by Felicia Lamport, The Comic Looking Glass by Hart Leavitt, and The Rats of Rutland Grange by Edmund Wilson (printed in a magazine, this work was later published as a separate book). In addition to these fully illustrated books, Gorey provided cover drawings for several books, spot illustrations for a few magazines, was still working at Looking Glass Library, and published his own books The Fatal Lozenge, The Hapless Child and The Curious Sofa with Obolensky! Mr. Gorey said it could take two months or more to illustrate one of his own books after he got the writing done. He worked on his drawings mainly in the mornings and would then go out and about during the day for meals, to visit friends, go to movies and attend theatrical events. Since 1957, he had also been attending every single performance of the New York City Ballet.

Throughout the 1960's, Mr. Gorey would continue to keep up and incredible pace, producing innumerable drawings, illustrations and complete books. It is no wonder he said that he practiced "crosshatching as a way of life"!

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Curious Sofa


The Curious Sofa was Edward Gorey's third (and final) book published by Ivan Obo- lensky in 1961. As with the other two tiles from this pub- lisher, TCS is a paperback book that shows wear easily. TCS is the first Gorey volume which he publishes under an assumed name; Ogdred Weary (being an anagram for Edward Gorey). Over the years, Mr. Gorey would come up with numerous pen names based on the letters of his name. He seems to have been given just the right combination of 11 letters to make up far more names than one would have believed to be possible.

The Curious Sofa is subtitled A Pornographic Work, and what a work it is! At the beginning of the story, we find Alice eating grapes in the park when she is approached by Herbert. We follow Alice's adventures as she sets off on a whim with Herbert and encounters alfresco dining, well hung men and dogs, sympathetic women and it all ends (presumably badly) with her screaming in a polar bear fur lined room. Sex occurs from the first, and even though it is rampant, it is always just out of eye shot and never explicitly rendered. Gorey portrays Alice in every drawing holding or eating grapes.

One of the confusing things about TCS is that every copy of the first edition has a limitation statement printed on a fake colophon page stating that "this copy is no. 83 of an edition limited to 212 copies". I have heard it said that this was Edward Gorey's private joke because he did so many limited edition books, but in fact this book predates all of his signed/numbered/lettered/limited edition volumes, and is really foreshadowing for things to come over the next 39 years! By 1961 he had only published The Bug Book in a limited run of 600 copies, and this was for the private use of The Looking Glass Library.

All first edition copies of TCS have a printed price of $1.50 on the cover. When the price increased to $1.75, a price change sticker was put over the amount. Once again, I have several editions of this title in my collection. I have two 1st/1st's which are both signed, one being inscribed to me and the other being a very nice copy that was signed twice by EG, once as a (supposedly) forged signature and a second time signed in person by the man himself!

The first hardcover/DJ of this title was printed in 1980 by Dodd Mead Co., NY. My copy is signed. The second hardcover printing was produced by Hardcort Brace in 1989, and my copy of this reprint is also signed. In the picture above, I show the uncorrected Hardcort proof of this title in printed red wrappers. The final, psychedelic version of this title I show is the 1st Swiss edition in laminated boards. This title appears in Amphigorey and is currently in print once again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Scrap Irony

In 1961 Edward Gorey illustrated Scrap Irony, the first of three books by Felicia Lamport with Gorey illustrations (Scrap Irony 1961, Cultural Slag 1966, and Light Meters 1982). Published by Houghton Mifflin in Boston, Mr. Gorey provided artwork for the dust jacket, title page, chapter titles and numerous interior illustrations for this book of satirical verse.

In 1985, I purchased my first three pieces of original Edward Gorey illustration art (the first in April, the second in August, and the third in September), thus beginning my Gorey art collection. In September of that year, I had the good fortune to be offered the original frontispiece/title page art from Scrap Irony (I will show the other two pieces in later postings since they are not from this book). After purchasing this piece of art, I was unable to purchase another piece of original art by Edward Gorey until 1993 - there just wasn't much original Gorey art being offered during this time.

One of the things I particularly like about this piece of artwork is that it includes a self portrait of Edward Gorey on the right side. I have been told that the woman on the left is a portrait of Felicia Lamport. For the second printing of the book, the date on the original drawing was changed by Mr. Gorey from 1961 to 1962. The publisher's information must have also changed for the second printing because there are remnants of a paste-up on the lettering on the scarf. The paste-up change had fallen off the drawing and was lost before I purchased the piece.

This piece of artwork, along with my first edition copy of the book, was included in the exhibit "Reading and Collecting Books, Minnesota Book Collectors" which was held from June 8 to August 11, 1996 in the Cargill Gallery at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This piece was also exhibited from April 17 to September 27, 1974 at Yale University as part of the exhibition "Phantasmagorey, The Work of Edward Gorey" and is listed in the catalog of the same name by Clifford Ross.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Hapless Child

With the publication of The Hapless Child in 1961, Edward Gorey's considerable skill as an artist becomes fully realized. In his previously published volumes, EG had been experimenting with different drawing styles and levels of line work, but for this story Mr. Gorey pulls out all the stops and produces intricate drawings that are densely detailed. Each illustration becomes a master class on how to render people, wallpapers, bricks, cloth, plant life and various atmospheric conditions using only black ink on white paper. All of this could become so over the top that it would stand in the way of the story being told, but due to Mr. Gorey's expertise it enhances rather than detracts from the tale.

Remembering that artwork in his published books is reproduced life size to his original drawings, it is no small feat that Gorey was able to put so many details into each image. In The Hapless Child, he has finally gone over the edge and created a masterpiece of pattern, texture, light and shadow.

This being stated, I must admit that The Hapless Child is not my favorite Gorey volume even though I realize that it is a turning point in his career as an author/illustrator. This book is inspired by Mr. Gorey's love of silent films and the book has a cinematic feel to it, both in the story telling and the illustrations. Even with the plot twists and turns, I find The Hapless Child to be a rather straightforward tale, and for me it less engaging than his more non-linear stories which invite the reader to join in and "fill in the blanks".

A fun fact about The Hapless Child is that every drawing in the book contains a small black creature cavorting about the scene. Part of the charm of this book is to locate the creature in each drawing, an artistic device that Mr. Gorey did not repeat in any other book.

The Hapless Child is the second volume in the Ivan Obolensky triad. The first edition has a pinky/ purple cover and once again, it is a paperback book that can be difficult to find in excellent condition because when the book has been read a few times it shows signs of wear quickly. The Hapless Child was included in Amphigorey and is currently in print and available as an individual book.

I have several editions of this title in my collection: two 1st/1st's; one in excellent condition that is signed, and one in slightly lesser condition that is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey. The smaller blue copy in the photo is an Honor Astor reprint which is also signed. The 1st hardcover in DJ was published by Dodd Mead in 1980 (this book sometimes is called a reprint, but it is the first American hardcover edition). Also shown is the white Swiss 1st hardcover. This volume was included in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts 1984 Gorey Stories exhibition.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Fatal Lozenge

In 1960, while still working at the Looking Glass Library, Edward Gorey once again changed publishers for his next book. The Fatal Lozenge is the first of three books that would be published by Ivan Obolensky, Inc. of New York. I have always liked the name of this publisher because it seemed as though it should be one of Mr. Gorey's character's names.

Gorey was quoted as stating he switched pub- lishers fairly often because he would be ap- proached and con- vinced by a new publisher that they could increase sales of his illustrated volumes. He said he would switch publishers and after publishing a book or two, they would let him go (or drop him) due to limited sales figures and the process would begin afresh.

The Fatal Lozenge is Edward Gorey's first published "alphabet book". Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a character which appears in a four line poem (Apparition, Baby, Cad, Drudge, etc.), each poem being accompanied by a single illustration. Apart from being in alphabetical order, the individual poems do not relate to each other, but rather each turn of the page reveals a new personage who is involved in some sordid activity or misfortune.

The first edition of The Fatal Lozenge was published as a small paperback volume with $1.25 printed on the cover. On the second printing of this book the price has changed to $1.75, but otherwise they are identical. Because only the price has changed and no statement of a second printing appears inside the book, this is really a secondary binding and not a true second printing.

The Fatal Lozenge is another Gorey book that is hard to find in great condition since the dark blue of the cover was printed on white paper and over time becomes easily scuffed. This title is included in Amphigorey. Both my 1st/1st and secondary binding of The Fatal Lozenge are signed by Mr. Gorey and inscribed to me on the title page.

In 1961, an edition of The Fatal Lozenge was published in London under the Constable imprint. For the English first edition, the title was changed to The Gorey Alphabet and new cover art was created. The British first was printed as cloth hard cover book with no dust jacket and has shockingly pink covers! The cloth of this edition has a fairly rough texture to the weave, so it is surprising that Gorey's fine line work printed so well on the covers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Edward Gorey The Haunted Looking Glass, Part 2

I have a second piece of original artwork from Edward Gorey's Haunted Looking Glass published by Looking Glass Library in 1959 (see my post from October 31, 2008). This piece of artwork illustrates The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Once again, Mr. Gorey's expert use of line work creates just the right mood through his mastery of light and shadow. I particularly like the composition of this piece with the hanging skeleton presiding over the evil proceedings.

I obtained this piece of artwork from an online auction in the Fall of 2000. Mr. Gorey had passed away in April of that year, and there was a flurry of online activity following his death. Of the many pieces of original artwork that became available during that time, I was thrilled to add this spectacular piece of art to my collection. This piece of art is hand signed in the lower right hand corner.

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.