Thursday, January 29, 2009

Unknown Original Art

Another 1965 illustration project for Edward Gorey was Alvin Steadfast on Vernacular Island (published by Taplinger Publishing Co. New York, illustrated dust jacket, plain brown cloth binding). The drawings for this book have many unusual creatures in them which lend themselves to Mr. Gorey's talents.

In Spring 1985, Bill and I attended the ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair, something we try and do most years. On this visit, a booth had two pieces of original artwork by Edward Gorey for sale. At the time, I only had two pieces of Gorey art, so it was a thrill to see the pieces. One was the drawing for page 23 from Alvin Steadfast (shown at the right).

The second piece of Gorey art which was in the booth is the illustration shown at the left. The piece is taller than many Gorey illustrations, being 3.25" wide by 9" tall. I was unable to purchase any artwork at the bookfair, but some months later a different dealer contacted me and told me he had run across an original Gorey (he had purchased it from the dealer at the bookfair), and I ended up buying the art from him.

I still do not know what book or publication this piece was created for. There is a notation in pencil giving a page number at the bottom of the piece, and it is signed by Mr. Gorey. Other than that, there is no indication on the piece as to where it was used. It was suggested that it may have been created for The Harvard Review because it matches the format Gorey often used for the publication, but I have not been able to confirm or deny this. I am hoping that somebody will recognize the piece and end my decades long search!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Two 1965 Edward Gorey Illustration Projects

The King Who Saved Himself from Being Saved by John Ciardi (published 1965 by Lippincott, NY - issued with illustrated dust jacket) is a children's book about a kingdom that encounters a knight whose sense of purpose is stronger than his common sense. The knight insists on saving King and kingdom to win the hand of the King's daughter. The only problem is that in this kingdom, everyone and everything live together peacefully - even the resident giant and dragon. The knight will not listen to reason and insists on fighting, to his own peril. The kingdom then continues its peaceful existence unaided.

Edward Gorey illustrated six children's books by John Ciardi over a period of several years. Illustrations for all of these titles are charming and happy.

The Recently Deflowered Girl by Hyacinthe Phepps, the pen name of author Mel Juffe (published 1965 by Chelsea House, NY - issued with no dust jacket) is a tongue in cheek advice book subtitled, "the right thing to say on every dubious occassion". This humor book gives twenty situations where a girl has been "deflowered" by a heartless, thoughtless, or forgetful man. In each instance, Ms. Phypps delivers advise to help the unfortunate woman cope with and conquer the situation.

Edward Gorey has provided an illustration for each of the twenty situations and his style varies from drawing to drawing. Some are densely crosshatched ovals full of atmosphere and detail (Deflowered by Chinese Detective, Deflowered and Discovered In Act). Some are "standard" Gorey illustrations. Quite a few of the illustrations remind me of the work of Charles Addams. These pieces are watercolor wash paintings in tones of grey and black (Deflowerment by Old Friend of Family, Deflowerment While Baby Sitting).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Gilded Bat

One of Edward Gorey's most well known works is The Gilded Bat. Published in 1966 by Simon & Schuster in New York, The Gilded Bat is a hardcover book with a matching pictorial dust wrapper. The first printing of the book says "first printing" on the copyright page (later printings dropped this phrase, but otherwise are identical). The spine of the book is white with black lettering - this is the easiest way to spot an early printing of this title on a bookshelf.

Ballet was always an important part of Edward Gorey's life and in The Gilded Bat, Mr. Gorey put his extensive knowledge and love of dance onto each page. The story is a rags to riches tale of a youth who dances her way from obscurity to stardom. The Gilded Bat is full of ballet puns and jokes - especially in the names of performers and ballets.

To promote the first printing of this title, Simon & Schuster issued a one page, folded announcement that featured illustrations from the book, a brief synopsis and quotes about Edward Gorey's works. The most notable quote is from Mr. Gorey's mother! This is the only place I have ever seen Mrs. Gorey quoted. The pamphlet is a fairly rare piece of Gorey ephemera. I am showing the front, inside and back of the announcement mailer in the three photos.

There have been many reprints of this story over the years because it is a popular title. In the photo below, I am showing my 1st/1st which is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey, the second printing, the 1979 Dodd Mead hardcover reprint (the images are the same size, but the book is slightly larger than the original printing and the spine has white lettering with a black background), and the pamphlet. This story is included in Amphigorey Too. The Gilded Bat is currently in print and available on line or at bookstores.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Little Henry Clump

The Pious Infant tells the story of Little Henry Clump, the boy who was too good to live long. At the end of this wonderful tale by Edward Gorey, "Henry Clump's little body turned to dust in the grave, but his soul went up to God."

In 1979, I met my partner Bill while attending my first year of college at The Philadelphia College of Art (PCA). As most colleges do, PCA held a Halloween Dance on October 31st. As we were both completely enamored with the work of Edward Gorey, Bill decided to go to the festivities dressed as an "Edward Gorey Person". He wore pale make-up, acquired a straw hat and an old dark suit from the local thrift stores and walked with a cane. To complete the costume, he decided to impale "Little Henry Clump" at the end of his cane! Of course, he had to have a "Little Henry Clump", so he got busy sewing.

We still have Bill's Henry Clump hand-made doll who, despite being impaled on his cane and spending the evening on the floor, and with a few restorations, survived remarkably well. Bill removed him from the tip of the cane and tucked him away safely. Unbeknownst to me, Henry came with us the following year when we moved to Minneapolis to complete our educations at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but Bill wasn't finished with him yet!

As a surprise gift to me, Bill decided that Henry missed his final resting place and made a coffin for him to reside in. I am quite sure that many of our friends and family thought we were crazy, but our "Gorey Friends" understood! The wooden coffin is lined in white satin, has a comfortable satin pillow and in the tradition of the coffins of yesterday, it has a viewing window. For several years, Henry in his coffin was our "coffin table", and he still comes out as part of our Halloween decor each October.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Three Books from Fantod Press

In 1966, Edward Gorey offered the first of four collections titled, "Three Books from the Fantod Press". Issued as individual books but sold as a set in a colored envelope, the paperback volumes represent a great deal of work by Mr. Gorey. The titles in this first collection are The Pious Infant, The Evil Garden, and The Inanimate Tragedy. All three titles appear in Amphigorey Too.

Three Books from the Fantod Press was issued in a printed yellow envelope and each book was printed in an unnumbered, unsigned edition of 500 copies in illustrated wrappers. Because the three volumes were stuffed inside the envelope, the envelopes usually show much wear, creasing and tears. My three books are all signed by Mr. Gorey on the title pages. The Pious Infant is inscribed to me.

The Pious Infant tells of a (naturally) Holy Child who comes to an early demise. The wrappers for this title are a pale lavender which fades quite easily if exposed to light.

The Evil Garden has an appropriately sickly yellow/green cover. It is one of the more blatantly evil books by Mr. Gorey with depictions of the horrible happenings that are usually left to the reader's imagination.

The Inanimate Tragedy is a title that showcases Mr. Gorey's true genius for writing and illustration. "Death and Distraction!", said the Pins and Needles. "Destruction and Debauchery!" Thus begins this wonderful tale of intrigue, madness and murder. Inspired by objects found in most junk drawers - marbles, knotted string, thumbtacks, buttons, pins and needles - along with an artist's Number 37 Pen Point, Mr. Gorey pits the objects against each other in a tale worthy of most Soap Operas. Interacting on a bleak landscape (a single horizontal line), the objects ultimately are plunged into the "Yawning Chasm", all the while the Pins and Needles act as a Greek Chorus and warn of impending doom before throwing themselves after all the other objects.

Friday, January 9, 2009

More Friends Magazine Original Artwork

In my posting for December 5, 2008, I show a piece of original Edward Gorey artwork that was created for Friends Magazine in the early 1960's. This second piece of Friends art was titled Departing Train when it was exhibited at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum as part of the Gorey World exhibition in 1996/1997.

This beautifully rendered image shows a train slowly passing through a neighborhood on a summer day. The children are playing with their animal companions on the steps of a walk-up and all are transfixed by the passing train. This is obviously the event of the day; even the large black dog is all attention, while the scrappy striped cat atop the fence is leaning to peer at the train. I find it interesting that the drawing has a warm, nostalgic feel even though the neighborhood it is passing through appears to be in disrepair and the copious amounts of smoke belching from the train would make it a most unwelcome visitor.

Departing Train is one of my favorite original works by Edward Gorey which I own. I waited many years to acquire this piece and added it to my collection in 2008. It was originally offered to me in 1993 as one of five pieces from the collection of Robert Weeks, who was the Friends art director and had commissioned illustrations from Mr. Gorey for the magazine. In '93 the price of this piece was beyond the limits of my wallet, but I was able to acquire the running dog drawing at the time. I have always viewed this piece of art as one of the "ones that got away" and am thrilled to have finally added it to my art collection.

Once again, I am posting photos of the (fading) three page fax I received from Gotham in 1993 showing the artwork from the Robert Weeks/Friends collection which was available at the time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Remembered Visit

Edward Gorey's book for 1965 is The Remembered Visit. Published by Simon and Schuster, New York., TRV is a volume that shows wear easily because the dark blue printing scuffs and the bright white paper yellows or gets dirty. My copy is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey. This story was included in Amphigorey.

In this story, we follow the adventures of a girl named Drusilla, who goes abroad in her eleventh year. It is a story of forgotten promises and distant remembrances. This book features another favorite character name, Miss Scrim-Pshaw. I also enjoy how the title of the book is rendered in wispy hand-lettered type, as though it were just a memory floating in the sky.

The illustrations for this title are beautifully detailed, especially Mr. Gorey's renderings of hedges and turbulent waters. The 60's really are Gorey's glory years for crosshatching. Every drawing is tight, details are minute and he seemed to have embraced his style with abandon and enthusiasm.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Three Ladies Beside the Sea

Written by Rhoda Levine and illustrated by Edward Gorey, Three Ladies Beside the Sea was published in 1963 by Atheneum, New York. The illustrations for this work portray three quintessential Gorey women who live in houses which look like elaborate chess pieces standing on the shore. Mr. Gorey has created charming drawings in his "sparse" style where the white space on the page portrays the wide expanse of sea and sand.

The book is dedicated to "Emma Watson, in her first year, for her parents Julie and Tony, and for Sandy Wilson". Young Emma's parents are perfomer/author Julie Andrews and designer Tony Walton. Sandy Wilson is the English composer and lyricist best known for his 1954 musical The Boy Friend, which was Ms. Andrews' first Broadway show (she also directed the revival in 2005). It comes as no surprise that in addition to being the author of several children's books, Rhoda Levine teaches music, directs and choreographs theatrical productions and operas.