Monday, June 8, 2009

The Black Doll

The Black Doll is the only "'A' Collection" book by Edward Gorey that was published without illustrations. Densely written as a silent film script, this is perhaps the only written record by Mr. Gorey of what he was actually seeing "in his mind's eye" as he mapped out a story. If translated into his standard illustrated book form, the title cards would be the text and we are left to imagine the pictures he would have drawn by the descriptions of the scenes. The plot for this piece begins in an apparently straightforward manner, but soon descends into confusing twists and turns which characterize much of Mr. Gorey's work.

This is not the first appearance of the Black Doll. The armless figure first appears in Mr. Gorey's second book, The Listing Attic accompanied by one of the texts in French. The back cover of The Willowdale Handcar, or the Return of the Black Doll also features this enigmatic stuffed object (even though it does not appear in the story).

Gotham Book Mart published the first edition of this book in 1973, and it was reprinted in its entirety in Scenario, The Magazine of Screenwriting Art in 1998. The Black Doll has remained a "Gorey Rarity" until this past year when it was reissued by Pomegranate Books. The original edition was published in wrappers with a black dust jacket adorned by a small pasted on illustration. The illustrated paste-up on the cover is the same format used on Categor y, and was perhaps going to be the visual signature of Gotham-produced Gorey books. My copy of this title is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey.

The signed, limited edition of The Black Doll was bound in boards (with the paste-up) and housed in a plain slipcase (again like Categor y). The book is limited to 100 numbered/signed copies and 26 A-Z lettered/signed copies. I am showing copy #26/100.

When Scenario printed the script for this unproduced film, Edward Gorey provided a handful of new character/costume illustrations to accompany the text. The magazine also interviewed Mr. Gorey about the script. The interview was reprinted in Ascending Peculiarity, published in 2001. This issue of Scenario also includes the complete screenplays for The Full Monty, Young Frankenstein, and The Spanish Prisoner. Interviews with the screenwriters accompany each script.

In April 2009, Pomegranate published a new, hardcover version of The Black Doll with an illustrated dust jacket. Included in this volume are the illustrations and interview from Scenario. Also included is a new introduction by Andreas Brown.

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