Thursday, April 30, 2009


The Shrinking of Treehorn, published in 1971 by Holiday House, New York, was written by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Edward Gorey.

In this tale young Treehorn has begun to shrink in size, and while the adults take note, nobody is concerned enough to do much of anything about it. Treehorn eventually shrinks small enough to find an unfinished board game under his bed which is the cause of his unusual problem. He realizes he must continue the game to grow back to his normal size. This accomplished, he packs up the board game and puts it away. This story predated Chris Van Allsburg's Jumanji by 10 years, which features a similar theme, even though the board game is not nearly as destructive as Van Allsburg's.

The illustrations for this volume are quite unique. The borders on the wall paper and the kitchen cabinetry in Treehorn's home is very unusual, even for Mr. Gorey! On the kitchen cabinets, graphic oriental hinges frame the cupboard doors. Treehorn's school principal has a large piece of very modern art on the wall of his office, and the clothing for Treehorn's mother and the principal's secretary is "way out"! Very early 70's!

One thing I found amusing in the writing of this story is a small detail. While at school, Treehorn tries to get a drink in the hall from the "water bubbler". I noticed on the flap copy that Ms. Heide lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I am originally from Milwaukee, WI (about 30 minutes North of Kenosha). As a youngster my friends and I referred to water fountains as "bubblers". This is a regional Wisconsin slang term that is rarely used by people outside the area. Even my sister, who lives in central Wisconsin, says the term is not used where she lives.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Leaves from a Mislaid Album

Leaves from a Mislaid Album was published in 1972 by Gotham Book Mart in two limited editions. The colophon page states that seven of the drawings had appeared in First Person Magazine (volume #1) in 1960, and the style of the artwork is consistent with Mr. Gorey's earlier works. I have seen one original drawing from this title sold through eBay.

The first limited edition consists of 17 illustrated cards in a green printed folder, all housed in a light green printed envelope. This edition was limited to 500 copies and the limitation appears on the folder which holds the cards. This edition was hand numbered, but not issued signed by Edward Gorey. I am showing copy #86 which has been signed on the outside of the folder by Mr. Gorey. My copy was also inscribed to me on the envelope by EG, where he signed the piece a second time.

A more elaborate signed, limited edition was published in an edition of 26 lettered and 50 Roman-numeraled copies. This very special edition consists of 18 printed cards which are housed in a custom-made folding box with the title pasted on the spine and an additional illustration pasted on the cover. The box is held closed with black ribbon ties. I am showing copy E/26.

The publication of Leaves from a Mislaid Album is a departure by Mr. Gorey from publishing his work in a traditional book format. Unlike The West Wing (to date Mr. Gorey's closest sibling to this title), the lack of a binding makes Leaves a portfolio of prints with no set order in which they should be viewed. The images printed for Leaves consist of macabre character portraits which invite the viewer to invent stories based on the attitude and body language of the subject. The notable "odd man out" in this gallery is a portrait of the Doubtful Guest, found sipping an old fashioned soda. He is so unexpected an inclusion to this rogue's gallery that he becomes the comedy relief.

In the photo to the right, I am showing the front and back of the original announcement card which was used to promote this title. As time goes on, illustrated announcement/prospectus cards become common for most Gorey titles. The earliest announcement card I have in my collection (which I just ran across in a file) is for The Iron Tonic from 1969.

Leaves from a Mislaid Album is included in Amphigorey Too, but I feel that the piece loses something when the images are printed two to a page. A large part of the experience of this Gorey portfolio is being able to hold and look at each card in turn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Awdrey-Gore Legacy

The Awdrey-Gore Legacy was published in 1972 by Dodd, Mead & Company, New York. Dedicated to Agatha Christie, this title was published in hard cover with a matching printed dust jacket. This book is included in Amphigorey Also, and was also printed as a poster. The copy I am showing is signed and inscribed to me by Edward Gorey. While mystery based, The Awdrey-Gorey Legacy predates Mr. Gorey's involvement with Mystery! on PBS which began its run in 1980.

Edward Gorey was a self proclaimed Agatha Christie enthusiast, and stated that he read everything she wrote several times. This homage to the murder mystery is not so much a full fledged story as a deconstructed collection of all the bits and bobs that go into the making of a good mystery. In many ways, I think of this volume as the Edward Gorey book-version of the board game Clue.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Edward Gorey's first compilation book titled Amphigorey, was published in 1972 by G. Putnam's Sons, New York. The book was originally published in a hard cover binding with a matching illustrated dust wrapper. The original price of $12.95 is printed on the inside front flap of the dust jacket. Amphigorey remains in print today and is usually the first step (along with the other three anthologies) in starting a Gorey collection.

On all bibliographies of Mr. Gorey's works, it is stated that there is no physical difference in the first three printings of this book. P. Matthew Monaghan (the person in charge of all things Gorey at Gotham Book Mart when I started collecting) told me that this was actually not the case. On the earliest printings of Amphigorey, the color of the tan is lighter and slightly greenish in tone. This ink color was rejected and corrected, the tan becoming slightly darker and more brown in tone on subsequent printings. I have three first edition copies of Amphigorey (all signed by EG and one copy inscribed to me). One copy (pictured on the left side of the photo) is this lighter, slightly greenish tan color, which is presumably the earliest printing of this title. The other two copies (a first edition, and my signed, limited edition) are the standard tan color. If you click on the photo and view it larger, you can see the color difference. This is not due to any fading or external forces, but is a different color of printed ink. The color difference is more pronounced in person than on the scan.

A special signed/numbered limited edition of 50 slipcased copies was created to celebrate the publication of Amphigorey. There is a colophon page tipped into each copy of the limited edition that is signed and numbered. The black cardboard slipcase also features an illustrated paste-on label. The copies of this book which I have seen all have glue coming through the label. Obviously, an acidic glue was used to paste these labels down. I have had my copy professionally neutralized so the the acids will not continue to deteriorate the label.

Each of the 50 slipcased copies was accompanied by an original ink and water colour drawing of a cat. Each drawing was numbered within the piece of art and the numbers correspond to the number of the book. These drawings were published as Categor y in 1974. I own copy #39 of this special limited edition. The featured cat is wearing a striped sweater with number 39 boldly emblazoned on the chest. The ballet-like pose of the cat is enhanced by the way he nimbly balances on the unsupported green ladder. The drawing is signed in the lower right corner with Mr. Gorey's initials.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Three Books from Fantod Press III

Edward Gorey's third installment of Three Books from the Fantod Press, was issued in 1971 as an edition of 500 unnumbered/unsigned sets of three titles in a tan printed envelope (pictured). My set of books are all signed by Edward Gorey. All three titles appear in Amphigorey Too. This set of books was also issued in a special mottled-grey slipcased edition of 26 signed/lettered copies. This special lettered edition is one of the rare Gorey items that I have never run across or even seen in my 30 years of collecting.

It has been often referenced that The Deranged Cousins was inspired by Edward Gorey's rambling walks with his cousins at their home on the Cape. I have always found this to be a delightful, albeit deadly, tale with beautifully executed illustrations. There is a feel of sea air and sunshine about the pieces that capture the setting perfectly.

The Eleventh Episode by Raddory Gewe (Edward Gorey anagram) reads like a chapter from a Saturday morning serial adventure. All sorts of unusual occurrences happen to our heroine simply because she leaves the house upon hearing a scream. She should have known better.

(The Untitled Book) by Edward Pig (a most unusual Gorey nom de plume) is probably Edward Gorey's most perfect book. This title combines all the elements that interested and excited Mr. Gorey - beautiful artwork, language, nonsense, and pure "absurdest art" sensibilities. The nonsense poetry of (The Untitled Book) is best appreciated when read aloud so you can revel in the sounds of the words. The drawings alone deserve a standing ovation. Each panel is rendered with infinite detail, yet all 16 drawings (covers included) show the exact same courtyard that was redrawn (with weather variations) for each illustration. This technical tour de force is the backdrop for the "drama" that takes place within the scenes. I always have Camille Saint Sans' Danse Macabre running through my head when I read this book, which makes me feel like I am "looking at music". If I could pick any single piece of art from any Gorey book to own, it would be "thoo.".

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Story for Sara

Published in 1971 by the Albondocani Press, Story for Sara is a story by Alphonse Allais which was translated and illustrated by Edward Gorey. The first edition in illustrated wrappers was published in a signed, limited edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. This book also appears in Amphigorey Too. Copy #37/300 is shown along with the publication announcement card (shown above). The reverse of the announcement card is shown below.

This delightful cautionary tale tells the story of a (seemingly) good little girl who is actually rather nasty. Due to her own bad behavior, she ends up the meal of a rather large cat. The illustrations for this tale are exquisitely rendered, especially the night scenes where darkness is conveyed through crosshatching, yet every object in the scene is clearly delineated. A lovely book!

I find it interesting that, at this time in his career, Edward Gorey chose to illustrate (and often translate) works by a number of long dead authors. Alphonse Allais was born in France in 1854 and died in 1905. He was a well known humorist and avante garde artist in different mediums, challenging the pre-conceived notions of "What is Art".

Goreyography lists this title as an "A Primary Book", stating that while translating the text from French to English, Edward Gorey did a "virtual rewrite". Because so much of Allais' humor is related to language, wordplay and puns (just like Mr. Gorey's), moving from one language to another and retaining the humor of the original pieces have provided noted difficulties for many translators. I personally consider this book to be what Gorey has stated it to be - a translated text by another author which was illustrated by EG. Since it is not an original story created by Edward Gorey I feel that it should be classified as a "B Secondary Book". I doubt that Mr. Gorey's texts, which must be equally difficult to translate into other languages, are considered the original work of the translator involved.

By extension, The Grand Passion and The Doleful Domesticity are not "A Primary Works" either, since they are "Englished anonymously from Canton Dialect (1930) and illustrated by Edward Gorey". Mr. Gorey does not claim to have written the texts, but to have illustrated them.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Salt Herring

The Salt Herring by Charles Cros is an interesting Gorey-illustrated book. Like the two Edward Lear titles, this story has been given the same treatment usually reserved for Mr. Gorey's own volumes. Published by The Gotham Book Mart, and printed by the Profile Press in 1971, this book was produced in a signed/limited edition of 300 numbered and 26 lettered copies. I am showing copy #245/300. It was also included in Amphigorey Too.

M. Charles Cros was born in France in 1842 and died in 1888. He was a poet, humorous writer and inventor. He is credited with almost inventing the phonograph. He worked on his theories for recording and reproducing sound at the same time as Thomas Edison (the two did not know of each other's work), and his written account of the process was recognized in France in 1877. Before he could create a working model, Edison patented the phonograph in 1878. He also wholeheartedly believed that there was life on Mars and doggedly petitioned the government of France to finance the building of a huge mirror which the French people could use to communicate with the people of Mars!

Cros' poem, The Kippered Herring inspired short theatrical pieces called "monologues" that in turn inspired more theater. Mr. Gorey's translation and illustration of this poem became The Salt Herring. It is hardly surprising that EG found this figure from history fascinating. Below, I am showing the front and back of the announcement card that was sent to advertise the publication of this book.