Thursday, November 12, 2009

Les Urnes Utiles

Les Urnes Utiles is one of Edward Gorey's "silent" books (no story) in which the reader/viewer is encouraged to create a story for each picture. The unifying theme is the labeled urn that appears in each drawing. One of my favorites is the final urn labeled Hundreds and Thousands which is sitting in a kitchen. This urn probably makes little sense to many Americans, but would be more recognizable to the British. It refers to the brightly colored tiny round sugar decorations for cakes, cookies and trifles which are called "hundreds and thousands" in England, and sprinkles or jimmies in the United States. I believe this is a nod to Agatha Christie. In one of Ms. Christie's Miss Marple short stories, a man murders his wife by poisoning the hundreds and thousands on the dessert trifle.

Issued in 1980 as signed limited edition of 400 numbered and 26 lettered copies, Les Urnes Utiles was published by Haity-Furguson Publishing Company of Cambridge, MA. In the photo above, I am showing the front of copy #L/26 , and the back of copy #332/400. Les Urnes Utiles was reprinted in Amphigorey Also.

To the right is the announcement card used to publicize this book - the front of the card (not shown) shows the cover of the book. In 1990, Mr. Gorey used a translation of Les Urnes Utiles for the title for a play he produced on the Cape, Useful Urns.


Anonymous said...

What is the original publication year of this book?

ampootozote said...

1980...thank you for the question - I have adjusted the post to include the date.