Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Sam and Emma
It is rare that the reprint of an illustrated children's book is cause for celebration, but such is the case with Sam and Emma by Donald Nelson. Originally published in 1971 by Parents Magazine Press, this title is illustrated by Edward Gorey. Created during an exceptionally prolific time in Mr. Gorey's career, the book is lavishly illustrated with over 30 beautifully executed watercolor paintings.
The title characters, a gentle dog and critical cat, travel together and visit woodland creatures. Through their encounters, the cat learns to become more tolerant of creatures different from herself.
While the original printing of this title is include in most Edward Gorey collections, it is rarely a cherished volume. This is because the printing quality of the book is downright poor (see photo above). The pictures are fuzzy and out of focus giving the viewer the impression that they need glasses. For the new printing (Dover Publications Inc. 2016, see photo at the top of this post), The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust has used the original paintings from the archives and had them newly photographed. The artwork in this new printing has been very carefully executed and the paintings appear fresh and alive.
A curious feature of this volume is Edward Gorey's rendering of Emma, the critical feline. Emma's appearance in this book is a direct precursor to the Amphigorey Cat - the ubiquitous cat which will come to be known as the signature Gorey Cat. Emma is drawn with a rough coat of fur, white paws and wears a scarf and beaded necklace, but the shape of her body, tail, head, and face are almost exactly like the streamlined Amphigorey Cat which will make its official appearance one year later.
Up to this time, Mr. Gorey drew cats in a (more or less) realistic manner. Beginning with Sam And Emma, his cats took on a more vigorous and distinctive personality. Emma is seen lounging, balancing, dancing, and tripping lightly through the book in a way that will become the hallmark behavior of the Amphigorey Cat. It is also amusing to note that other animals in Sam And Emma wear bits and pieces of clothing that will be appropriated by the future Cat. Sam wears a turtleneck sweater (vertically striped as opposed to the Cat's horizontal stripes), while the raccoons will have their colorful striped scarves appropriated by the future feline.