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.

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