Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Worsted Monster

The Worsted Monster is an enigmatic work, or works, by Edward Gorey. Begun in the 1950's and never published (or completed?), the first incarnation of The Worsted Monster is a self proclaimed Medieval Tale that features a cast of male characters and one large dragon, presumably the monster itself. A completely revised tale which shares the same title appeared in the June 1975 issue of National Lampoon Magazine as a toy theater, complete with sets, Dramatis Personae, and a libretto (see my post from August 136, 2013).

Several pieces of artwork from the 1950's version were displayed at The Edward Gorey House in 2016 as part of their Artifacts from the Archives exhibit. This exhibit reunited interior drawings from this book that remain in the Gorey archives with this dust wrapper design that was borrowed from a private collection. The dust wrapper artwork is now in my collection.

An interesting characteristic of this piece of art is that the title was reworked by Edward Gorey and a changed version was pasted over the original title. When I acquired the piece, the seventy year old glue used on the paste-up had dried out and the title was in danger of becoming detached from the surface of the artwork. As part of my conservation of the piece, I gently removed the paste-up which revealed the original title drawing. After documenting the original version, the revised title has been repositioned using archival materials.

Surprisingly, there are only slight variations between the two titles. The original version uses more color and the hand lettered type on the scroll is less formal. The angle of the scroll has also been altered slightly in the new version. This is a clear example of Edward Gorey's attention to balance and detail in his art. The newer, more monochromatic title gives more emphasis to the colorful gentleman and dragon. The cover of the book, as shown in the cropped photo above, has a pleasing composition. Presumably, had this title been published, Mr. Gorey would have also hand lettered the title for the spine of the book and added that to the center of the drawing. It is also worth noting that this would have been a very large book if published life sized to the artwork since the cover would have been 11 1/2" tall.


Philip said...

Again, a fascinating blog. Thank you. Two thoughts...

Do we know when Gorey learned calligraphy? I have a signed copy of one of the Merrill Moore Books (signed at the time), a signed prepublication issue of The Listing Attic and, of course, lots of his later things signed and I am intrigued that the first two signatures are quite different from each other and from the later ones. I bring it up because the underneath lettering on the artwork appears similar to that say, of The Listing Attic, and the replacement lettering is more akin to the rest of his work. Is it possible to pinpoint exactly when he changed his handwriting?

Second, I was intrigued by the fact that the artwork you are talking about was likely to have been larger than the finished book. As I understand it, he much preferred to draw to exact size. Are there many examples of him comfortably drawing to a different size to the finished printed version?

With thanks


ampootozote said...

I do not believe that Gorey every "learned" calligraphy, per se. I think it evolved naturally as he got more and more practice. He also had to brush up his skills during his Anchor days since he was being paid to do the lettering on book covers.

Gorey has a similar refinement happening with the line quality of his drawings. The Unstrung Harp has much looser line work when compared to, say, The Gashlicrumb Tinies.

As to sizing, Gorey was very aware of the finished size of his printed pieces. The Worsted Monster is very early...presumably before he settled into his 100% work, which was a result of his time at Anchor. I know of several later instances when he drew to scale for posters (small drawing for large printing). He also pretty much always drew larger (and in color) for publications such as TV Guide and Playboy where the final printing was very small.