Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Prune People II

Published in 1985, The Prune People II is a sequel to The Prune People (see my posting from January 23, 2010). It is rare for Edward Gorey to create a direct sequel to a previous "A Collection" book, but he evidently enjoyed creating situations for his prune-headed creations...thus this second installment.

Printed by the Albondocani Press, New York, The Prune People II was issued in illustrated tan wrappers in an edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies. All copies are hand signed and numbered/lettered by Mr. Gorey. I have copies Q/26 and #216/300. Shown below are the front and back of two announcement cards used to promote this publication.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Edward Gorey!

Today is Edward Gorey's 85th Birthday!!!

On days like today, I stop and reflect on how this one man and his art touches my life on a daily basis: The wonderful books... the coffee cup that I use in the morning... the art on the walls of my home... the phrases and sayings that are part of my daily conversation... the memories of theatrical experiences... this blog which I am constantly mulling over... the collectors and friends I have met and continue to meet with a common interest in his works.

Edward Gorey has permeated every aspect of my life. I only wish that he were still here in person so I could send him a card today to thank him and wish him well....and give him a silly hat to wear...wait, I don't think he would like the silly hat!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bellairs in 1984

1984 saw the publication of two ghost/mystery stories by author John Bellairs, both of which had full color dust jacket paintings and pen & ink frontis artwork by Edward Gorey. Both books were published by Dial Books for Young Readers.

The Dark Secret of Weatherend is the second Anthony Monday/Miss Eells adventure. For this title, Mr. Gorey created a beautiful painting for the dust wrapper. Some of the dust jacket designs from this series have a disjointed front and back to them, but this one reads as a single image, especially since the figures are in different clothing on the front and back. The dust jacket painting was included in Bromer Booksellers 2001 catalog of Gorey items. The hand-lettered type for the cover/spine was included as a separate piece of art. I am not aware of the frontis drawing being available from Bromer or Gotham Book Mart.

Also published in 1984 is The Spell of the Sorcerer's Skull. I tried to obtain the cover art from this title when Mr. Gorey sold his Bellairs art holdings in 1994, but it was not found in the archives. The frontis drawing failed to make an appearance as well. I really like this dust jacket design, and I would have loved to been able to obtain this piece of art had it been available.

This is a Johnny Dixon and Professor Childermass adventure (even typing the Professor's name makes me want chocolate cake), and is a prequil to the next Bellairs' title, The Revenge of the Wizard's Ghost.

(Update 1/1/15) The original rough sketch for the Spell cover art is being offered at Swann Auction Galleries. It is fun to compare how closely the details are worked out in this rough sketch, and all appear in the final art. Edward Gorey did his planning quite thoroughly during the sketch faze of a project, working out his composition and general color scheme. There are not usually too many surprises that crop up in finished pieces.

Friday, February 12, 2010

1984 Minneapolis Institute of Arts Exhibition, Part 2

Edward Gorey agreed to create a poster for the 1984/85 Gorey Stories exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA). The art he created was a wonderful complete four act play in poster form. This is one of Edward Gorey's most difficult to find posters because the majority of the very small print run never left the Twin Cities and was purchased by museum visitors - not collectors. The MIA only sent Gotham Book Mart a minimal number of the printed posters.

Mr. Gorey drew the original artwork at 8.5" x 17" with written instructions to print the poster at 200% the size of the original, or 17" x 34". Upon receiving the artwork, head librarian and curator for the show, Harold Peterson, ignored Mr. Gorey's hand written instructions and had the posters printed at the size of the art (8.5" x 17").

Since Mr. Gorey had agreed to sign and number 100 posters to be sold at the MIA gift shop, Mr. Peterson sent the small printed pieces to Mr. Gorey. The artist refused to sign the posters until they were printed at the proper size and asked that the small posters be destroyed. The MIA reprinted the posters at the requested size (which Mr. Gorey signed and numbered in an edition of 100), but of course did NOT destroy the small printings as requested. Thus there were three states of this poster available in the gift shop - 8.5" x 17", 17" x 34" unsigned, 17" x 34" signed/numbered. I have copy #22/100 in my collection, as well as a small poster.

When the exhibition was over, the MIA returned the borrowed "A" collection original art and also the art from the poster. Mr. Peterson and the MIA initially resisted sending back the poster art, saying that this piece of art was now the property of the Museum since it was drawn for them. This was not part of the agreement however, and in the end the art went back into Mr. Gorey's archives.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1984 Minneapolis Institute of Arts Exhibition, part 1

In 1984/1985, Edward Gorey had a major exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) titled Gorey Stories, Drawings & Books by Edward Gorey, which was displayed in the Leslie Memorial Room of the MIA's library. I have mentioned this exhibition in many earlier posts, primarily because it is the one major Edward Gorey museum exhibition with which I have been personally involved (to date). Even though this exhibition took place early in my collecting career, the majority of the books on display were lent to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts from my personal collection.

Pictured on this post is the poster which Mr. Gorey created for the show, the cover of the exhibition catalog and the front and inside of a Holiday Program Guide from the Institute.

When Harold (Hal) Peterson, the head librarian for the museum decided to mount the exhibition, he and I had several meetings to compare the MIA's holdings (they seem to have been de-accessioned since that time) and discuss what additional pieces would be of interest to display. I introduced Hal to Gotham Book Mart and armed with our list of recommended items to borrow, he took a trip to NYC to discuss the loan of original art for the exhibition.

Exhibition space was limited, and after meeting with Andreas Brown at GBM, it was decided that the MIA would borrow original art from The West Wing, The Loathsome Couple and The Eclectic Abecedarium. Contracts were signed and the art was to be sent to the MIA in August of 1983.

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is one of three institutions that reside on one very large city block in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The other two arts institutions are The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), and The Children's Theatre Company (CTC). In early June 1983, a sexual molestation case involving the director of CTC and several students broke and became national news. When they read of this during the summer months, Mr. Gorey and Mr. Brown decided not to send the drawings from The Loathsome Couple to the MIA for fear of bad publicity. At the last minute, they substituted drawings from The Water Flowers. Also missing from the intended originals were the drawings from The West Wing. I no longer remember why these drawings were not sent, but no replacement was substituted.

Mr. Gorey was invited to the opening reception, but of course declined. This show was extremely popular with museum visitors. The library, usually a quiet spot in the MIA was a constant buzz of excitement. In addition to the books and artwork on display, many Gorey books were available in the gallery for visitors to read. Peals of laughter and squeals of delight often filled the room.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tunnel Calamity

One of Edward Gorey's most theatrical published works is The Tunnel Calamity. Published in 1984 by G. Putnam's Sons, New York, this item really cannot be called a book. It is better described as a Magic Windows paper toy.

Holding the front and rear stiff covers, the viewer extends the accordion pleats and looks into a peep hole on the front. This creates a "tunnel" where all kinds of things are happening. The angle can be moderately changed from side to side to view the layers of illustration that appear when the item is extended. The effect is that you are looking down a tunnel or into a deep stage set. This is one of Mr. Gorey's more fragile and frivolous printed works.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Amphigorey Also

Amphigorey Also is the third compilation of previously published books by author and illustrator Edward Gorey. It features a full color section in the center where it presents two titles (and the cover design from a third) in color. Still available, this volume was originally published in 1983 by Congdon & Weed, NY as an illustrated hardcover with matching dust jacket. There is an edition of the book with a different cover which was published specifically for Barnes and Noble, and their name appears on the spine (see the photo at the bottom of the listing).

This volume was also available as a slipcased, signed, limited edition of 250 numbered copies and 26 lettered copies (A - Z). The black slipcase features a small paste-up on the front. I am showing copies #C/26 and #53/250. The first trade edition (shown above right) has been signed by Mr. Gorey.

Fortunately for fans of Mr. Gorey's work, the Amphigorey series is a wonderful introduction to his stories and art. Because so many of his works first appeared as signed, limited edition volumes, individual titles can be elusive and very expensive. The four compilation books are a must have for the Gorey neophyte as well as the seasoned collector.