Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Cape Cod Christmas Cards

In 1989, Edward Gorey produced another set of Christmas Cards that were sold around Cape Cod, whose profits from the sales were used to help people in need in that community (see my post from December 5, 2009). Here are the three Gorey Christmas images (which I have not seen reprinted). Each card has a red accent within the image, and each appears to be hand signed by Mr. Gorey.

The first shows a young girl and her cat - who is as large as she is - waiting expectantly for Christmas to arrive.

The second shows a woman and her son decorating a Christmas tree. Once again the Teddy Bear held by the child is as large as he is. Through the window in the distance, a Cap Cod lighthouse is visible.

The third card shows a muffled man taking a break from shoveling while a boy and a dog trot past. The dog has either been decorated for the holiday, or has run afoul of some Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cards

Here are a couple of Edward Gorey Christmas card images that were printed by the Gotham Book Mart in 1977. These classic Gorey scenes have become familiar over the years because they have been reprinted and sold in boxed card sets.

The first image (left) is of a man holding an enormous stack of wrapped Christmas gifts. The second (above right) shows three men transporting a holiday tree on a sled. In typical Gorey fashion, the tree with its lit candles is under a glass bell.

The Men with Tree was included in the book Artist's Christmas Cards, published in 1979 by A & W Publishers. Two Gorey images are included in this collection, the other being the Great Veiled Bear card (see my posting from December 19, 2008).

Monday, December 21, 2009

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

It seems inevitable that Edward Gorey would one day illustrate Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (OPBoPC) by T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965). The pairing of Mr. Gorey's signature felines and Mr. Eliot's poetry is a match that was destined to occur.

Mr. Eliot wrote the poems in the 1930's and included them in letters to his godchildren, to whom he wrote in the guise of "Old Possum". Collected together and published as OPBoPC in 1939, the first edition was printed with a cover design by Old Possum himself (the book shown to the right is not in my collection). The collection underwent several printings and has been illustrated by Nicolas Bently (1940), Edward Gorey (1982), Errol Le Cain (1986 & 1990),and Alex Scheffler (2009).

In 1981, the Andrew Lloyd Weber/T.S.Eliot musical Cats (with additional lyrics by Trevor Nunn) opened in London and one year later on Broadway. It became the longest running musical of its day, only to be outdistanced by that other Lloyd Weber/Don Black creation, The Phantom of the Opera.

The renewed interest in the OPBoPC poems generated by the musical produced a strong interest in republishing the text in a newly illustrated volume. Edward Gorey was the perfect illustrator to undertake the project. His illustrations are humorous and witty and perfectly capture the playfulness of the cats in the poems.

The first Gorey-illustrated hardcover edition of Old Possom's Book of Practical Cats (pictured left) was published in 1982 by Harcourt Brace Janovich. The book has an illustrated dust jacket and interior illustrations. In 1982, a paperback version of the book was printed (pictured right). The book proved to be popular and the first printing quickly sold out, instituting a second (also in 1982) and many subsequent printings. It can be difficult to find true first printings of the Gorey-illustrated edition which state "First Edition / A B C D E F G H I J". Both copies shown are first/firsts.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gorey Games & Gorey Cats

Two interactive books for children that had Edward Gorey's approval, but were put together by others are Gorey Games (with Larry Evans) and Gorey Cats Paper Dolls (with Malcolm Whyte and Nancie West Swanberg). For both of these mass market volumes, illustrations by Edward Gorey were adapted into books that could be cut up or drawn in.

Gorey Cats Paper Dolls (1982 Troubador Press) is aimed at younger children and features a number of friendly felines which can be cut from the book and dressed in different costumes. The back of the book folds out to provide the dolls in color. The dress-up clothes are printed in black and white and can be hand colored as the viewer sees fit.

Gorey Games (1979 Troubador Press) is a book of brain teasers and puzzles by Larry Evans, all illustrated using previously published illustrations by Edward Gorey which have been adapted for the puzzles. This book was published in a limited hardcover edition of 750 copies which includes an extra puzzle and a previously unpublished drawing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Minneapolis Institute of Arts 1984 Gorey Exhibition

It was around 1982/83 when the idea started kicking around to have a second exhibition of works by Edward Gorey at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I have a friend who, at the time, was a librarian at the MIA and through him I got to know Harold (Hal) Petersen, the head librarian. The MIA had been the site of Mr. Gorey's first museum show in 1968 - see my posting from February 8, 2009 for more information on this earlier exhibition. The 1968 show was curated by Charles Paul Helsell who had donated most of his collection of Gorey books to the library (they are no longer in the archives...where did they go???).

The idea was to mount a new exhibition in the museum's library which would showcase the books the MIA had in their collection, and to expand upon this archive by borrowing from my collection of books, ephemera and original artwork. Over the course of a few dinners, Hal and I began to discuss what would ultimately become a very popular exhibition at the museum.

Charles Paul Helsell no longer worked at the MIA, but he was friends with Hal and still had Mr. Gorey's contact information, so he wrote to EG to find out if the museum could borrow original art from his archives. In a delightfully messy typed letter to Mr. Helsell, Mr. Gorey responds in a slightly befuddled manner to the request. Mr. Helsell retained the original letter, but gave me a copy for my files. It reads:

"Dear Mr. Helsell,

Re your letter of 28.ii, sure, why not. (All the work will devolve on Andy Brown, since the Gotham is where everything is. However.)

Also, I'll be willing to do the poster for whatever the traffic will bear, if anything. Let me know what sort of thing you have in mind, and what it will say on it.

Also (again), I have some awful though dim recollection of your writing me some time ago about some sort of theatre project involving my work, and that by the time I got around to thinking of answering, I had hopelessly mislaid your letter and address. Anyway, that would be all right with me too, if whoever it was is still interested. He, she, it, they might be interested in looking at Gorey Stories (not my idea of the world's greatest adaptation of same, but then) which is available from French; I also have lots of unpublished stuff which I could make available. Forgive typing, messiness of.

Edward Gorey"

To my knowledge, nothing ever came of the offer to work on a theatrical piece. More on how the exhibition came together and the show itself in future postings.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas Card

Edward Gorey created many, many Holiday images for Christmas. Most of these have ended up on cards at some time, past or present. One of the harder to find Gorey Christmas cards is a delightful silhouette image he created in 1990. Sold in shrink wrapped packs of ten around Cape Cod, all profits from the sale of these cards were used to help people in need in that community.

The image Mr. Gorey created for this card has a plethora of animals and insects cavorting around a large Noel, which has been decorated for Christmas. Joyously calling in the holiday season are a grasshopper, alligator, butterfly, snake, rhinoceros, dragonfly, bat, a many legged insect on a swing, and frogs on a railway cart. There is also an elephant with wings and a flying pig proclaiming with a trumpet. Inside the "O" is a moon with what appears to be a family of Doubtful Guests - I suppose even the Doubtful Guest had parents!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Water Flowers

1982 marked the publication of one of Edward Gorey's Christmas stories, The Water Flowers. In typical fashion, the title and cover illustration has little to do with the Yuletide season and the story has very little "Peace on Earth...".

Stranded in the house by snow and growing hungry, our intrepid characters begin to cook with the only ingredients on hand - flour and water. The result is an out of control white sauce that is served with Soda Crackers. People come, go, cook and die, but still the white sauce remains!

When we have nothing to eat in our house, Bill will often ask if I am going to make a delicious white sauce. We have both been known to look at something cooking on the stove and proclaim, "It's lumpy".

Published by Condon & Weed, Inc. of New York, The Water Flowers is a hardback in illustrated boards and a matching dust wrapper. The copy I am showing is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey. This story is reprinted in Amphigorey Again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Dwindling Party

Edward Gorey was constantly inspired by new formats for his books. The challenge of creating The Dwindling Party as a three dimensional pop-up book fired his imagination. Because every surface (front and back) of the pop-ups are illustrated, this "Gorey Story" invites us to step inside, wander about and see all there is to see.

The Dwindling Party begins even before the reader opens the book. The story starts on the front cover and finishes on the rear cover. Each turn of the page shows a scene where the viewer can enhance their experience by creating movement or open secret doors. As the fantastic story literally unfolds in the viewers hands, the besotted family disappears one by one. Mr. Gorey has told us this story before (or a story that is almost the same) in The Evil Garden, but without color and movement.

The Dwindling Party was published in 1982 by Random House as a laminated hard cover book. First printings of the book have a number line running down to "0" behind a flap on the first page. The earliest printings also have a "peel off" price sticker on the front cover of $8.95. The copy I am showing is signed and inscribed to me by Edward Gorey.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Les Melange Funeste

Le Melange Funeste was published by the Gotham Book Mart in 1981 as a signed/limited edition of 500 numbered and 26 lettered copies. I am showing copy #28/500, and lettered copy "U".

This is the first of three cut apart limited edition books created by Edward Gorey. In this book, the cast of characters is divided into three sections so you can mix and match heads, torsos and lower body sections, creating unusual people/creatures. Because of the style of this book, it is unlikely it will be reprinted.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Les Urnes Utiles

Les Urnes Utiles is one of Edward Gorey's "silent" books (no story) in which the reader/viewer is encouraged to create a story for each picture. The unifying theme is the labeled urn that appears in each drawing. One of my favorites is the final urn labeled Hundreds and Thousands which is sitting in a kitchen. This urn probably makes little sense to many Americans, but would be more recognizable to the British. It refers to the brightly colored tiny round sugar decorations for cakes, cookies and trifles which are called "hundreds and thousands" in England, and sprinkles or jimmies in the United States. I believe this is a nod to Agatha Christie. In one of Ms. Christie's Miss Marple short stories, a man murders his wife by poisoning the hundreds and thousands on the dessert trifle.

Issued in 1980 as signed limited edition of 400 numbered and 26 lettered copies, Les Urnes Utiles was published by Haity-Furguson Publishing Company of Cambridge, MA. In the photo above, I am showing the front of copy #L/26 , and the back of copy #332/400. Les Urnes Utiles was reprinted in Amphigorey Also.

To the right is the announcement card used to publicize this book - the front of the card (not shown) shows the cover of the book. In 1990, Mr. Gorey used a translation of Les Urnes Utiles for the title for a play he produced on the Cape, Useful Urns.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dancing Cats & Neglected Murderesses

While not as famous as Lizzie Borden, Edward Gorey's Neglected Murderesses could possibly be his second most reprinted group of characters (the first being the unfortunate children of the Gashlycrumb Tinies). First appearing in 1979 in Murderess Ink (see the previous posting), these 12 enterprising women have made appearances as postcards, in books and on calendars. This group of women always reminds me of the Six Merry Murderesses of the Cook County Jail from the musical Chicago. Each woman (and child) from the group stands for their portrait placidly, daring the viewer to find fault with their deed.

After their debut in 1979, Workman Publishers printed Dancing Cats and Neglected Murderesses as a trade paperback in 1980. This book did not use a Gorey-designed cover, but rather took two black and white illustrations and added color and standard type. The resulting volume does not really have the look of a "Gorey Book". The copy I am showing is inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey.

Mr. Gorey was so disappointed with the look of the Workman publication that he designed a new cover for this title. Using the interior sheets from the Workman edition, but adding a limitation page, Mr. Gorey issued a signed limited edition the same year as the Workman publication. Limited to 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. The new cover gives the book a "Gorey look", but does little to improve the poor printing quality of the sheets within. I am showing copy #59/300.

Presumably still not happy with their previous appearances in print, Mr. Gorey then initiated a THIRD appearance of the ladies in 1980. Leaving Workman behind, Neglected Murderesses Postcards was finally printed full size to the original illustrations as a limited edition post card set. Issued in an illustrated envelope (no stated publisher), and limited to 250 signed/numbered copies on a separate limitation page, this Gorey title is quite scarce and can be difficult to obtain. I am showing copy #54/250.

Not content to linger in the past, our enterprising females also appear in The Betrayed Confidence and Amphigorey Again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Murder Ink

Edward Gorey contributed illustrations for many books and periodical publications. Two books which Mr. Gorey made contributions to were Murder Ink (Workman Publishing, New York, 1977) and Murderess Ink (Workman Publishing, New York, 1979).

Both of these volumes are dedicated to fictional murderers, murderesses and the authors who wrote about them. Each of the numerous chapters is a short essay on the many facets of crime writers, their characters, and their inspirations. For Murder Ink, Mr. Gorey drew a title page image and has two mentions within the book. Murderess Ink has the first appearance of the famous Neglected Murderesses postcard series.

Neglected Murderesses is a collection of twelve ruthless women - are all killers who disposed of their victims in novel ways. Unfortunately, the images are printed rather poorly in this book and the illustrations have been downsized to fit the pages. In the photo to the right, you can see a postcard printed at the correct size for the original artwork. These enterprising ladies will appear in no less than three publications of their own...more to come!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Published in 1980 by Andrew Alpern, New York, F.M.R.A. is something of a Gorey oddity. Consisting of 33 printed images of various sizes, shapes and presentations housed in a custom clamshell box, this title has the feel of a miniature exhibition of Gorey drawings. Present are Christmas and Valentine's Day card designs, spot illustrations from magazines and a few previously unpublished pieces of art. Some images are printed on small pieces of paper, others are larger and folded to fit into the box, and one small envelope contains seven tiny drawings.

Because of the piecemeal quality of the inclusions, F.M.R.A. will probably never be reissued. Originally issued in an edition of 426 copies (400 numbered and 26 lettered), the contents of each box include an illustrated title sheet, a limitation page, the various illustrations, and a table of contents sheet that identifies each inclusion. The 400 numbered copies were housed in a beige colored clamsell box while the lettered copies are in a greenish-brown box. All boxes had the title stamped in gold on the "spine". I am showing copy #323/400.

Curiously, F.M.R.A. was not a quick seller, and Gotham Book Mart had copies of this title available for many years. This was unusual for a limited edition Gorey title.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dracula Photos

Since it is Halloween, I thought it would be appropriate to look at another pair of Dracula items today!

Here are two 8" x 10" glossy photographs of artwork from Edward Gorey's Dracula. These photos were sold through Gotham Book Mart and are hand signed by Edward Gorey. The images appear as the cover art for The World of Edward Gorey (by Karen Wilken & Clifford Ross, published by Harry N. Abrams in 2002). The photo at the bottom of the post shows the stamping on the back of the first photo. The second photo does not have a stamp on the reverse.

With the success of Dracula on Broadway, Mr. Gorey was approached to create an illustrated version of this classic novel. He completed cover drawings and several interior pages. Unfortunately, Mr. Gorey grew tired of the project and never completed the book. The original art was displayed in 2006 at the Edward Gorey House as part of their Dracula exhibition (this exhibition also traveled to the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wedding Invitation

In 1980, P. Matthew Monahan and Katherine Keskey were married and had their reception at the Gotham Book Mart. Mr. Monahan was the director of the GBM gallery. Edward Gorey created the invitation for their wedding/reception. As far as I know, this is the only time Mr. Gorey designed a wedding invitation, and it is a scarce piece of Gorey ephemera.

The front of the invitation features a portrait of the couple's cats Fletcher and Zenobia lounging on cushions. I have been told that the cats were named after the characters in the books by Edward Gorey and Victoria Chess (see the posting from March 9, 2009). What I like about this drawing is that the cats are not stylized, but the drawing is an actual portrait of the couples feline companions.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Signals Catalog

Since I mentioned the Signals Catalog in a previous posting, I thought I would address this venue for obtaining Edward Gorey collectibles. Created as a catalog for items relating to PBS programs (and much, much more), the Signals Catalog has always had a wide variety of Gorey books, tee shirts and ephemera available for purchase.

Signals still features Gorey merchandise, the newest of which is a series of animation-style laser cell prints which come matted and ready to frame. These multiple layer prints take classic Gorey images give them a slightly three dimensional quality. The most recent of the cell prints is The Gashlycrumb Tinies cover art. They are nicely done and give a new dimension to several Gorey images.

The most unusual collectible series created by Edward Gorey exclusively for Signals (beginning in 1992) were the Signals' Prints. This series of 10 offset lithographs features original, highly detailed scenes drawn by Mr. Gorey. Each of the 10 prints were issued in two states: a signed/numbered edition and an unsigned/numbered edition. The first print in the series had 625 signed & 1275 unsigned prints (see photo above, print #99/650). This edition sold so well that Signals upped the number of prints on the remaining 9 images to 850 signed and 1750 unsigned prints. The first print in the series also had a small number of Artist's Proof prints. The 10th print in the series is the only one to be created in full color (see photo below, print #640/850). All prints came matted and framed under glass, ready to hang on the wall.

I would like to point out that the Signals prints have conservation issues. These prints are matted in acidic mattes, and are held in place with masking tape. This means that the framing materials will eventually leach acids and discolor the prints they are showcasing. I have the first and last prints from the series in my collection. I removed my prints from the mattes, then had them professionally neutralized (taking particular care to have all masking tape residue professionally removed). I re-framed the prints in acid free mattes, and decided that since I was re-framing the prints, I would change the colors of the mattes to better suit my tastes.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gorey Posters

In 1979 Gorey Posters was published by Harry N. Abrams Inc. as a large format paperback. Using drawings from previously published works and enlarging them to a common format, this collection of black and white images was presented as small posters which could be cut out and framed. There is an interview with Mr. Gorey included at the beginning of the book. Gorey Posters can be difficult to find in fine condition.

Edward Gorey created new cover art for this volume, but no previously unpublished images appear within. It seems that every few months, some industrious person gets hold of one of these 30 year old books, cuts it up and lists the "prints" individually on eBay.

Recently, Pomegranate has published an updated version of this book entitled: EDWARD GOREY, The New Poster Book. Once again, this large scale paperback presents images intended to be cut from the book and used as "posters". The contents of this book overlap slightly with the first Gorey Posters, however this updated version includes mostly new images that were not in the original volume, including many that are printed in color. The new color images include beautiful watercolor paintings by Edward Gorey.

The New Poster Book presents quite a number of black and white drawings which have had color added to them (some more successfully than others). This new trend of adding color to Mr. Gorey's black and white work is a practice that is causing some debate amongst collectors. Personally, I find this trend unsettling in the same way that I think colorized black & white movies look odd. Mr. Gorey created so many wonderful color images that it seems unnecessary to me to use his black & white pieces in this way.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mystery! Original Artwork

In 1985, I purchased my first piece of original Edward Gorey artwork. Within a year, I was able to obtain three pieces of original art by Mr. Gorey. I was unable to add a forth piece of original art to my collection until 1994 because there was so little Gorey art on the market during this time. This was a time before the internet when it was much more difficult to find out what dealers had without a lot of networking and going to book fairs. It wasn't until the mid-90's, when Mr. Gorey needed to finance the extensive maintenance to his home, that he decided to sell a large portion of his original art holdings through Gotham Book Mart.

The piece that started my Gorey art collection was created for Mystery!, but was unused. This is a pen & ink illustration of a skeleton/ghost against an evening sky. A tissue overlay accompanies the piece of art and shows the intended lettering (sketched and written in Mr. Gorey's hand) stating that "Now Appearing on Mystery!" would appear as white lettering against the black sky. The overlay shows the intended cropping of the drawing into a perfect circle (the art bleeds outside the circle). This "button logo" was to have appeared in a corner of the television screen when ads for the program were shown. Like other images Mr. Gorey created for the program, the producers changed their minds and this project was abandoned. This drawing remains a favorite piece in my collection.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mystery! Merchandise

There are a number of Edward Gorey collectibles associated with the PBS program Mystery!. Mr. Gorey created many different posters which advertise programs appearing in upcoming seasons, and these are frequently available through on-line auctions. I had one very large bus stop/subway poster for The Woman in White which I sold a few years ago because it was too large to display (see photo to the right).

I have a few Mystery! related items in my collection. The first is a bookmark that was produced for the series. The front of the card has a wonderful image of a skeleton holding a knife and reading a book. The reverse lists the titles and dates of shows appearing on the program.

Another really nice item is the Mystery! Sarcophagus Box. This small black box was sold through the Signals Catalog. The lid of the box has a low relief design by Mr. Gorey. In typical Gorey style, the image has an Egyptian flavor yet still looks like something out of a 1920's silent movie.

The next piece is a boxed pewter letter knife which might not have been specifically made for Mystery!, but I regard as Mystery! merchandise. I purchased this piece through the Gotham Book Mart. This letter opener is adorned with a female character in low relief on the handle. I always felt that this piece was poorly designed and executed - the casting is rough and not finely detailed. The letter knife was inexpensively produced and has that feel when you pick it up. I don't believe this piece of Gorey ephemera was widely distributed.