Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie

The next title in the John Bellairs' book series is The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie. This is the third story where Brad Strickland completed an unfinished manuscript (or outline) left by Mr. Bellairs when he died. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York in 1994, this title is the ninth book to chronicle the adventures of Johnny Dixon, his friend Fergie and the ever cantankerous Professor Childermass.
Edward Gorey created a dust wrapper painting which shows two scenes, one on the front cover and one on the rear. While the rear cover shows an intriguing image, the front cover design is the star of this show. The front of the book features a zombie carrying Johnny away into the night, while Professor Childermass confronts it with a flashlight. I have not seen this artwork in person, but close examination of the printed image reveals how the white paper is left unpainted for the beam of light, while the background is painted all around the glowing stream. Mr. Gorey shows exceptional control of his watercolor paints in this image.

I find it amusing that Edward Gorey took the liberty of turning the face of the zombie green in his painting, giving it a "Frankenstein's Monster" look. The description in the book states that the zombie is deathly pale with dead eyes. There is also an amusing story about the interior art posted on - Mr. Stickland sent a sketch to show Mr. Gorey what he intended for the illustration which appears on page 125. Mr. Gorey forwarded the original sketch to the publisher explaining that he could not improve on the art!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Figbash Acrobate

Published by the Fantod Press in 1994, Figbash Acrobate is a book of typography by Aedwyrd Gore (Edward Gorey anagram). This book consists of drawings of Figbash playing charades with the 26 capital letters of the alphabet and numbers 0 through 9. Each page features a single number or letter.

Figbash Acrobate was issued in an hand signed edition of 500 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies. Mr. Gorey signed the colophon page as Aedwyrd Gore. The cover of this perfect bound paper back book is printed front and back on powder blue card stock. This stock is especially prone to fading in sunlight, so pristine copies will become increasingly difficult to locate as time goes on. I am showing copy #381/500 and lettered copy X. Figbash's athletic impersonations are included in Amphigorey Again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuffed Creatures Part 3: Edward Gorey Commercial Made Dolls

Our final area of Edward Gorey collectible stuffed dolls & toys is the commercially made items (see my postings from October 6 & 28, 2010 for previous discussions on stuffed toys). The commercial dolls come in several different forms. Some had limited availability, while others were, and occasionally still are, available through catalogs such as Signals.

The rarest of the commercially made dolls is the limited edition Doubtful Guest figure which was created in 1974 under Mr. Gorey's supervision. This doll was discussed fully in my posting on October 20, 2008.

There were five characters created by Toy Works in the late 1970's and 1980. Each bean bag animal features full color printing on fabric, is stuffed with hard plastic beads, and each has a printed copyright date. The animals are printed front and back and the detailing on these pieces is really wonderful.

The Toy Works collection includes a Bat (1980), Cat (1978), Pig (1979), Frog (1980), and a Rabbit (1980).
The Toy Works Bat is the most common of the dolls and one of the most wonderful. The fabric is printed with Edward Gorey's distinctive cross hatching which has been shaded to give the doll more three dimensionality. The eyes of the creature are red rhinestones and the wings are stitched and stiffened. With its 14.5" wingspan, the bat is the largest of the Toy Works collection.
The Toy Works Cat is a favorite amongst collectors. Each 6.5" cat wears a printed sweater with boldly colored stripes. Cats were available wearing orange/yellow or two tone blue sweaters.
The Toy Works Pig is an animal of sartorial distinction. This pant-less farm animal stands approximately 7" tall and is attired in a snappy vest, bow tie, and jacket. Pigs are usually printed with pink skin, but I have a second example with light purple skin.
The Toy Works Cat & Pig were also available as "Sew It Yourself" kits. Unopened kits are fairly uncommon.
The Toy Works Frog is a collegiate fellow and can be relatively difficult to find. Decked out in a letter sweater and tennis shoes, this amphibian is ready for the big game. The frog is approximately 7.5" in length when laid flat and has button eyes. The frog is the most acrobatic of the animals. He can lay flat, drape over the edge of chair, or sit up to watch the game.

The Toy Works Rabbit is by far the rarest of the animals. At approximately 6" tall this snappy fellow is boldly adorned in a green jacket and orange/yellow kilt. When I first encountered a stuffed rabbit years ago at Matthew Monahan's NYC apartment, he told me that this animal was not put into regular production, and very few were created. The fact that I have only seen of three examples in 30 years of collecting reinforces this opinion. The example pictured to the left belongs to a fellow collector.

A Bah Humbug doll accompanied the limited edition of The Headless Bust. Since the book had an edition of 776 copies, there were 776 dolls made. These dolls have tons of personality and can be set about in many different positions.

A small number of extra Bah Humbug dolls were made and were sold individually by Gotham Book Mart. One interesting thing about the Bah Humbug dolls is that some were printed facing left and some facing right. I am not sure which is more prevalent or if there were equal numbers of each.
In 2003, Gund came out with a stuffed Gorey Cat doll. These cats come with different colored, removable knitted sweaters. The detailing on these plush pussycats is fantastic. They look like they stepped right out of an Edward Gorey illustration.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Curse of the Blue Figurine Original Artwork

I recently acquired a piece of original artwork created by Edward Gorey for John Bellairs' The Curse of the Blue Figurine. The book was published in 1983 and there is more information on this title in my posting from May 24, 2009. This frightening image was used as the frontis illustration and is reprinted full size in the book. The drawing is signed in ink by Mr. Gorey.

This beautifully rendered pen & ink illustration shows a menacing figure with glowing eyes being held at bay by Professor Childermass in a cave on a stormy night. The unconscious Johnny Dixon is being pulled away from the figure by the fearful Professor.

The skill of Edward Gorey's crosshatching technique in this piece of art is a master class in line manipulation. In this single image Mr. Gorey uses variations of line to render the cave, figures, rain outside the cave, fire, smoke from the fire, and the enveloping darkness surrounding them. I especially like the two pinpoint glowing eyes of the advancing figure which are added with small dots of white paint.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dancing Rock & Floating Elephant

If The Pointless Book got me angry with Edward Gorey (see my posting from October 16, 2010), then The Dancing Rock and The Floating Elephant sent me into despair. Fortunately, there were still many gaps to be filled in my collection, so there were lots of interesting books, prints and artwork to collect even though these newly published volumes were disappointing.
The Dancing Rock/Floating Elephant is a simplistic flip book that can be viewed "dos-a-dos", meaning that the flip book could be used in either direction. One side features a rock that moves across the page, then the book is turned over and the rock is replaced by an elephant. Edward Gorey had always experimented with unusual formats in his books and it seemed natural that an animated flip book would become part of his offerings.
The Dancing Rock by Ogdred Weary and The Floating Elephant by Dogear Wryde was published in 1993. No publisher is listed for this title. A signed, limited edition of 100 copies was issued in a plain white envelope. The limitation is the most interesting thing about this book. Inside one cover, the limitation goes forward from 1/100 and is signed by one "author", flipping the book, the limitation descends from 100/100 and is signed by the other "author". My limited edition is signed 6/100 Dogear Wryde & 95/100 Ogdred Weary. The second book I am showing is the regular edition and none of the non-limited copies are signed. I am also showing the announcement card from Gotham Book Mart.