I have been getting a number of emails asking my thoughts on collecting original illustration artwork by Edward Gorey, so I will share some opinions on the subject.
My Gorey collecting tastes have always leaned toward Mr. Gorey's "A" Collection books and his original artwork. I certainly collect other areas of Mr. Gorey's work, but because he was so prolific, I have tried to keep things fairly focused. Because of this focus, I have assembled a wide range of original images from all the major periods and styles of Mr. Gorey's long career.
There are several criteria to consider when purchasing original artwork. Image, condition, and price (in that order of importance, for me) must all be taken into account when making the decision to add a piece to my collection.
Image - This is the most important criteria, and also the most ephemeral to explain to anyone who isn't a collector. There are some pieces you see and just have to have. With these pieces, most other collecting criteria (including common sense) are left by the wayside. Of course, one wants everything, but the reality for most of us is that we have to pick and choose what to buy. Collecting Edward Gorey originals can be tricky, in part because there is usually not a wide selection on the market at any one time to choose from. As prolific as Mr. Gorey was, the lion's share of his original work resides with his estate. A limited selection on the market usually means that prices run a little higher, but the reward of finding and obtaining a piece will be exciting.
Condition - This area can "make or break" a sale pretty quickly for me. Edward Gorey used 100% rag stiff illustration card to draw on, so the problems with condition usually start after he completed the artwork and sent it off to the printer/publisher. Even though Mr. Gorey worked on acid-free materials, I have all my original artwork professionally neutralized so that any acids in the inks or present from handling will not become a preservation issue.
Because illustration art is created to be printed and not exhibited, the original artwork was not always treated with respect. Most Gorey originals are in good condition, but there are a fair number of pieces which have been treated poorly over the years. It is not uncommon for the art to have notes written on it, and tape can be particularly evil. Masking tape is the worst because it will leach acids into the illustration board and destroy the paper rather quickly. It is a good idea to build a relationship with a professional paper conservator who can advise when considering the purchase of a piece which is in questionable condition (expect to pay for this professional advice).
The Man with Old Fashioned Car shown above has minor condition issues. You can see a small stain (coffee?) on the left side of the drawing and some slight sunning from where it was matted at one time. This was such an important early work that this was not an issue for me when purchasing the piece.
Price - Bargains are rare, and the good pieces are expensive. Not having a bottomless pocketbook, I have stretched to obtain most of the pieces I own. I have been very fortunate to have had wonderful relationships with many great dealers over the years.