Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beginning To End

Beginning To End marked the second and final collaboration between Samuel Beckett and Edward Gorey. Published in 1988 by Gotham Book Mart in a signed limited edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies, I am showing copy lettered copy I/26. Mr. Gorey's first collaboration with Mr. Beckett was All Strange Away published by Gotham Book Mart as a signed limited edition or 200 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies in 1976.

Collaboration is always a loosely used term when referencing Edward Gorey-illustrated works. When working with authors, Mr. Gorey would receive the finished text and whatever instructions were to be given to him and then he would produce illustrations as dictated by his inspiration.

Samuel Beckett was born on Good Friday, April 13, 1906 in Dublin, Ireland, and died in 1989 in France at the age of 83. He was a playwright and author whose absurdist/minimalist works greatly appealed to Edward Gorey, making him an ideal illustrator for Mr. Beckett's prose. Beginning to End is illustrated almost exclusively with small drawings of skulls which appear on the cover and throughout the text.

This title was appropriately named since it had an difficult beginning and end - actually, the end never came. For whatever reason, Edward Gorey was not getting the illustrations finished for this volume, and Samuel Beckett was ill. Cajoling calls were made to Mr. Gorey encouraging him to finish things up quickly because of Mr. Beckett's health. Matthew Monaghan told me there were also difficulties with the printing of this book because the original order for the special paper was short and matching paper had to be found.

The book was eventually completed and the colophon page signed before Mr. Beckett died. I am showing the announcement card (above right) for this volume. Mr. Gorey also agreed to do an original drawing for each of the 26 lettered copies of Beginning to End, but unfortunately he set this project aside. In 1996, Gotham Book Mart pre-sold the lettered copies with the promise that the drawings would be completed shortly (see announcement letter to the left). Once again, delays occurred, culminating in Mr. Gorey's death in April 2000 with the drawings still not completed. The lettered copies were sent to the collectors who purchased them, but no drawings ever materialized.

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