Before I get started on this post, I wanted to be sure to mention that everyone should check out www.bellairsia.com for all things John Bellairs. It is a great site with lots of information on this popular author and his writing.
Published in 1973 by The Dial Press, New York, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is the first book in the long running series started by John Bellairs. It is also the first author/illustrator collaboration between Edward Gorey and Mr. Bellairs. Bound in purple cloth, the hardback book has a graphic wrap-around dust jacket design in purple, grey, black and white. This book launches what will become a very popular series of ghost stories for children (and adults who have not gotten too old for fun ghost stories).
Set in 1948, The House with a Clock in Its Walls introduces us to 10 year old Lewis Barnavelt, his eccentric uncle Jonathon, and their equally unusual neighbor Florence Zimmerman. Recently orphaned, Lewis has been put in the care of his uncle, a man who lives in a large old house on the edge of New Zebedee, Michigan. An ominous ticking is heard inside the walls of the house, and even though Uncle Jonathon is a real, practicing wizard (and Mrs. Zimmerman is a witch), he is not the cause for the dark magic that begins to surround them all.
For this first collaboration, Mr. Gorey has illustrated the story in much the same style as a number of other projects he had worked on. The wrap-around design of the dust jacket has images from the story sprinkled across the front and back covers, and the book is fully illustrated throughout the text with wonderful full page drawings and spot illustrations. Mr. Gorey was not commissioned to do books 2, 3 and 4, but would return on book #5 with a new look/approach to the dust wrapper that would continue through the rest of the series.
At one time, Gotham Book Mart offered me the original pen and ink artwork for the dust wrapper design, but I did not purchase it. At the time, there were a number of original Gorey pieces available, and I felt that this piece was less desirable than some other artwork being offered. It sold before I could "get back to it". Unfortunately, none of the interior illustrations for this title were made available, and I do not know if they had been sold previously or if they are still in the Gorey estate archives.