Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sopping Thursday

The Sopping Thursday is a milestone in Edward Gorey's publishing career. To this point, he has published books in several different formats; standard publications, privately printed books, self published volumes, and signed/numbered limited edition books. With this publication, he takes his signed/numbered limited edition books to the next level.

Published in 1970 by The Gotham Book Mart as a limited edition of 300 signed/numbered copies and 26 signed/lettered copies, The Sopping Thursday celebrates the 50th anniversary of GBM. This is the first title of EG's published by GBM. The 300 numbered copies were published in stiff wrappers and signed/numbered by Mr. Gorey (#134/300 shown). The 26 lettered copies set this edition apart from books that EG has previously published.

What makes the 26 lettered copies of this book extra special is that each was specially bound in hardcover, slipcased and contains an original drawing with a corresponding letter. The letter/limitation are in the lower right hand corners of each drawing, together with Edward Gorey's signature in initial form. Unfortunately, I still have not been able to add one of these special lettered book/drawings to my collection. My favorites amongst the drawings are letters A, I, S, W & X.

To advertise the publication of this very special limited edition, 15 photocopied sets of the drawings were available to perspective clients. I had the good fortune to be sent scans of these xeroxed pages by another collector a couple years ago. I am showing the scans here so others may also reference them (click on the images to view them larger). Before receiving these images, I had never seen any of the drawings that accompanied this rare volume.

The first trade printing of The Sopping Thursday was published in 1971 by Capricorn Press, Santa Barbara. The book is slightly thinner and smaller than the limited edition books, and the copyright page states "second printing" even though it is the first trade edition. My Capricorn edition is signed and inscribed to me by Mr. Gorey. This title was recently issued by Pomegranate as a hard cover book with matching illustrated dust wrapper. This is the first hard cover printing of this title. The Sopping Thursday also appears in Amphigorey Also.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Books from the Fantod Press II

Not content to publish one book at a time, 1970 brought forth Edward Gorey's next set of three books which were issued as an enveloped set: Three Books from the Fantod Press II. The three titles included in this set are The Chinese Obelisks, Donald has a Difficulty (with Peter Neumeyer), and The Osbick Bird. Published in an edition of 500 unnumbered/unsigned sets, the three books were housed in a fuchsia colored envelope with the book titles printed in the upper left corner. The envelope for this set is quite susceptible to fading when exposed to light, and it can be difficult to find an envelope that is still bright. All three books shown are signed by Mr. Gorey and The Osbick Bird is inscribed to me.

The Chinese Obelisks is Edward Gorey's forth alphabet book, and is a favorite volume of Gorey's fans. It begins "A is an Author who went for a walk.", and we are taken on a journey with Mr. Gorey (the "Author" is definitely a self portrait drawing) that reveals the bizarre and the mundane from EG's viewpoint. Of course, the story ends tragically. Included in Amphigorey Too, sketches for The Chinese Obelisks are also included in this anthology. It is a rare treat to see the working "sketchy" drawing style which he used when blocking out ideas for a book.

Donald Has a Difficulty was co-authored with Peter F. Neumeyer and is the second of the "Donald" books that were created, this time with Edward Gorey co-authoring the volume. Mr. Gorey must have been quite pleased with the collaboration since this volume of the Donald series was published by The Fantod Press.

I have always had a fondness for The Osbick Bird. I love the way Mr. Gorey uses white space in the illustrations for this title. The spare line and open space give this unusual bird room to stretch across the pages of this charming story. This book is included in Amphigorey Too.

In 1999/2000, Mr. Gorey licensed images from The Osbick Bird (as well as other Gorey images) to The Funeral Consumers Alliance. The Funeral Consumers Alliance published a packet that includes fliers regarding final wishes, a pamphlet to be filled out and stored (at their suggestion) in the refrigerator or freezer, and a Gorey-illustrated magnet to put on the outside of the appliance so friends and relatives would know to look inside for the information. The Alliance also used an image from The Osbick Bird on a mug to promote The Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Visit to New York

This past weekend, Bill and I went on a whirlwind visit to New York City, which is why my blogging has been slightly erratic this past week or so.

Visiting "The City" is still a wonderful experience, but I will admit that I dearly miss visiting Gotham Book Mart. During our annual visits in the past, there was always something to see and savor at GBM. When our trips coincided with a Gorey show in the GBM Gallery, the thrill of seeing previously unseen treasures from the archives was always a highlight. The shows often featured original illustrations from Gorey's books as well as unusual printed pieces and ephemera.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The "Donald" Books, with Peter Neumeyer

In 1969/70, Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer collaborated on three books: Donald and the...; Donald Has a Difficulty; and Why We Have Day & Night. All three books are illustrated by Edward Gorey. For Donald Has a Difficulty and Why We Have Day & Night both Mr. Neumeyer and Mr. Gorey are given credit for the text. The Donald stories were begun by Mr. Neumeyer as a story for his son who was recuperating from a broken leg. One would assume that the science incorporated into the stories originated with Mr. Neumeyer and was enhanced by Mr. Gorey's particular view of the world. This series ended rather soon, but it was the intention of the two men to create more Donald stories.

The original 1969 printing of Donald and the... was published by Reading: Addison-Wesley in hardcover with matching illustrated dust wrapper. There have been several reprints, the most recent in 2004 by Abrams (shown). This reprint edition is made extra special by the inclusion of a new short essay at the back in which Mr. Neumeyer recounts his meeting with Edward Gorey. My 2004 copy is signed by Mr. Neumeyer.

Donald Has A Difficulty was originally published in 1970 by The Fantod Press in an unnumbered/unsigned limited edition of 500 copies. It was sold as part of Three Books from the Fantod Press II (more on this printing in an upcoming post). This title was also reprinted by Abrams in 2004 (shown), and contains the second half of Mr. Neumeyer's essay remembering his working relationship with EG. My 1970 copy is signed by Mr. Gorey and my 2004 copy is signed by Mr. Neumeyer.

Why We Have Night and Day was first published as a hardcover book with a dust jacket in 1970 by Young Scott Books, who also published the Gorey-illustrated Edward Lear titles. This title was reprinted by the Capra Press as a soft cover book in 1982 (shown), but was not included in the reprints created by Abrams in 2004.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fletcher and Zenobia

Fletcher and Zenobia was written by Victoria Chess and Edward Gorey, and published in 1967 by The Meredith Press in hard cover with a matching illustrated dust wrapper. The lively watercolor illustrations were created by Victoria Chess. Mr. Gorey seldom collaborated on a text with another author and it is very unusual to find a book with a Gorey text that is not also illustrated by EG himself.

The book begins with a cat named Fletcher who is stuck in a tree. He makes a friend of a doll named Zenobia, found in a steamer trunk that is also in the tree. Reading the text of this book, I can see some of EG's humor and choice of words, but to me the tone of the writing does not sound like a "Gorey Story". What tries to be absurdist feels a bit forced. Ms. Chess and Mr. Gorey collaborated on a companion volume, Fletcher and Zenobia Save the Circus. I do not have a copy of the second book.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reference Materials, Part 2

Moving on to the next batch of Edward Gorey reference materials which consists mainly of rare exhibition catalogs. Tracking exhibitions of an artist's work is an important way to establish provenance and to inform a collector about an artist. In this grouping, I am showing seven major Gorey exhibition catalogs, most of which contain brief essays about Mr. Gorey's work that do not appear in any other publications.

Phantasmagorey (back/center) - Yale University, Sterling Memorial Library, April 17 - September 27, 1974. This important exhibition catalog documents an early Gorey show organized by Clifford Ross. The show included books and a substantial amount of original artwork by Mr. Gorey, many pieces of which have not been exhibited anywhere else. The catalog features a an illustration on the cover created especially for this publication. My catalog is signed by EG.

Plain & Coloured Drawings (middle/left) - The first of two exhibitions at the Graham Gallery in New York, April 23 - May 18, 1974. This is Edward Gorey's first solo "Art" exhibition since his college days. Mr. Gorey only had three "Art" exhibitions in his lifetime where the drawings and paintings displayed was created exclusively for exhibition. The first was at the Mandrake Bookstore at Yale in the 1950's (I still have not been able to find out if this was a formal or informal exhibition), and the other two were at Graham. All other Gorey exhibitions have used collected materials, both published and unseen. The booklet for this exhibition shows five of the drawings which were displayed and has a short essay by Brendan Gill. My copy is inscribed by Mr. Gorey and has the separate, original mimeographed checklist of titles for the 46 pieces of original art that were displayed and for sale.

Problem Pictures (middle/right) - The announcement card for the second (and final) exhibition of original artwork created for the Graham Gallery in New York, December 2 - 31, 1975. My copy is signed and is accompanied by the original Graham printed envelope. One of the least satisfying of my collected exhibition materials, this announcement gives almost no information and shows little artwork. Preparing for a Fine Art show at a gallery had to be a daunting task for Edward Gorey, who was making his books and doing illustration projects at the same time as creating works for exhibition. To mount two solo gallery shows within 1.5 years is both an honor and stressful for any artist.

Drawings and Books by Edward Gorey (front/left) - The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, September 18 through October 27, 1968. Booklet and checklist for Gorey's first solo museum exhibition. My copy is inscribed to me by the curator. This item is discussed at length elsewhere in my blog.

Artist of Mystery (center) - April 21 - September 5, 1993, at the Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, California. Signed/numbered limited edition of 526 copies, my copy is #48. This booklet contains an essay by Malcolm Whyte and a checklist for the books, original artwork and prints displayed at the museum.

Ephemera Etcetera (front/center) - Gotham Book Mart and Gallery. I am assuming that this show took place in 1975 since materials exhibited date no later than Fall 1974 and the front of the fold-out states that the exhibition runs "through April 5th", but is otherwise undated. This is a rare accordion-fold catalog/list of one of Gotham's early Gorey exhibitions. The catalog lists the 63 items shown in the gallery, most of which were recent at the time of the show. Gotham's shows of Gorey works were primarily exhibitions, and showcased many archival items to whet the appetite of collectors. Occasionally items on display were for sale, but most were shown for exhibition purposes only. Gotham rarely provided a checklist for items on display, so it was always a surprise and a delight to go to the gallery when I was in New York City. The nice thing about lists of this sort are that today's collector can get a sense of smaller, ephemeral items that were available and rarely make it into mainstream shows and catalogs.

Gorey World (front/right) - Exhibition catalog for the September 18, 1996 to January 12, 1997 exhibition at the Cartoon Art Museum of San Francisco. Signed, limited edition catalog (my copy is #44 of 776 copies) for the second major Gorey exhibit at the museum. Once again, there is an essay by Malcolm Whyte in addition to the 86 listed items being displayed (some listings contain more than one item).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Living with Gorey

By now, readers of my blog have probably guessed that there is a LOT of Edward Gorey material floating about my home. Even though his work is primarily small in size, it does take up space.

I've spent a more than half of my life sur- rounded by Gorey's images in some form or another, but a couple years ago Bill and I took that to a new level. We had repainted our dining room a rather uncompromising shade of mustard yellow - something he was a little unsure of then, and is still uncertain about (I like it). To give it some additional interest, we decided to illustrate the walls.

This was accomplished by projecting images of book illustrations on the wall, tracing and then hand painting them in place. It was a lot of fun choosing drawings by various artists we collect, and we generally used less recognizable characters by these artists. The work of painting the images fell completely to Bill, and he would work far into the night to finish an image.

Included in the melange of characters are a couple of Gorey drawings since he's an obvious favorite. As images were added over time, we added a few classics like Piglet and Pinocchio. There are also images by John R. Neill, Mary GrandPre, H. J. Ford, H. R. Millar, and Palmer Cox - a bit of a grab-bag of illustrators. There are still a few holes that could be filled; we'll see.

If you think our dining room is fun (or even over the top), I invite you to see a portion of a parlor room in a friend's home. My friend and his wife love Gorey's work and took it to an extreme that I truly admire. The entire ceiling of the parlor is hand drawn to resemble a Gorey drawing. There are broken floorboards overhead which reveal a night sky complete with circling bats, arches with urns and winged skulls, and even the Doubtful Guest sitting in a corner. The artwork extends two feet down the walls and is really quite breathtaking in person. The ceiling's images were mapped out on paper and completely drawn by hand over a long, hot summer. This was a labor of love and is a wonderful room to sit in or pass through.