Monday, April 25, 2011

Fine Art Prints, Part 5 - Confusion Reigns!

Why are some prints by Edward Gorey hand signed and some signed with an embossed signature stamp?

As stated in previous postings, Edward Gorey created a total of 82 Fine Art etchings and collagraph prints. His first collection of six etchings created for Diogenes (discussed in my posting from April 4, 2011) are the only prints that were completed according to proper printmaking procedure. The six Diogenes images were printed as complete runs, numbered, hand signed and offered for sale. For all his subsequent print images, Edward Gorey did not follow proper print making etiquette, which would cause him (and later his estate) many headaches over time.

In order to offer as many images as possible and keep his printing costs manageable, Mr. Gorey decided to print only 10 or 20 impressions of each image against an anticipated total print run of 50 to 95 prints, rather than produce one complete run of an image before moving on to the next. The prints were hand signed and numbered 1/95 through 10/95, and when those ten prints sold, 11/95 through 20/95 were printed and signed - but the entire run of 95 was never printed all at one time.

This system meant that Edward Gorey had to keep a record of the number of prints made to date, so he had a notebook with details on his prints. At one point in the late 1990's, the book was mislaid and all print production came to a halt until the book could be found (it was). The consequence of this system of printing and numbering is that only some of the prints reached their full edition before Mr. Gorey died in April 2000. The editions which were incomplete at the time of Mr. Gorey's death were finished by his estate. These prints are hand numbered, and then signed with an embossed signature stamp. At least one collagraph print run could not be completed because the plate fell apart after the initial prints were pulled (I will discuss this print in a later post).

17 of the 82 print images were never printed during Mr. Gorey's lifetime - the plates were found in Mr. Gorey's home, but no prints had yet been pulled - these were completed by his estate and are referred to as the "Posthumous Prints".


Philip said...

Another fascinating entry - thank you! I had no idea how he kept track of the print runs and the story of the notebook was wonderful.

However, I remain confused as to exactly how many prints there are! Your blog seems to suggest a total of 99. Years ago I received from the Gotham a photocopy of all the prints then available (or, as you say, temporarily out of stock). They numbered 1 ("Insect on Unicycle") to 43 ("Le Chien de Giselle") and then 95 ("Bat in Rain") to 117 ("Sleeping cat turned right"). This suggests a total of 65 prints with a surprising 52 missing - right in the middle of his output, if the numbers are chronological. The Gotham price lists after Mr Gorey's death use the same numbering. I presume that Elephantomas accounts for some of these missing numbers, but what about the rest? Do the later printings by Gotham and the Edward Gorey House fully make up the rest? Are there some that were, like Elephantomas, given a very limited print run? Or are there just some that will be forever lost?!

ampootozote said...

Like I say...this is all very confusing. I did not including Elephantomas in my numbering since it was a set with a binding and was not listed on the Gotham Book Mart list of prints for sale.

That Gotham list shows prints 1 - 43 and then 95-117...this accounts for 65 prints made during Edward Gorey's lifetime. Adding the 9 Elephantomas prints, the total becomes 74. Then, when you add the 17 posthumous prints, the grand total or etchings and collagraphs becomes 91.

There never were any prints between #44 - #94. This quirk in the numbering system exists because the prints were once part of the GBM book keeper's larger list of Gorey items. Items #45 - 93 were other Gorey items sold at Gotham, but these items were not prints.