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.

Monday, October 12, 2009


In 1980, WGBH in Boston began producing the Mystery! series which is still running on PBS stations today. This series is dedicated to presenting classic and contemporary British mystery and crime fiction stories as complete films which range in length from one to six hours (in one hour installments). In the tradition of Masterpiece Theater, each episode in the series is introduced by a host. The host of season one was film critic Gene Shalit, who was replaced by classic horror film actor Vincent Price. After hosting the series from 1981 - 1989, Mr. Price relinquished the role of host to Dame Diana Rigg. Today, the series is introduced by actor Alan Cummings. I have a poster from the first season.

To those unfamiliar with the works of Edward Gorey, the trained Goreyphile can usually say, "Have you seen Mystery! on PBS? He did the cartoons at the beginning and end of the show". This will usually produce recognition, although not as much as it used to since the series is only broadcast sporadically today. The interesting thing is that Mr. Gorey had little to do with the actual production of the cartoons or the set that the host appeared in (a practice now sadly discontinued), both of which are pastiches of Mr. Gorey's drawing style.

In a 1996 interview, Edward Gorey stated that he started drawing backgrounds for the animated sequences, but that the producers of the show changed their minds so often that he finally threw his hands up and turned the entire project over to the animator, Derek Lamb. The earliest version of the animated sequence (taken from is shown below.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dogear Wryde Postcards - Interpretive Series

In 1979, Edward Gorey published Dogear Wryde Postcards: Interpretive Series. Issued as 13 black and white cards in a printed envelope, each card in the series features a lizard giving a charades-style interpretation of a word that begins with the letter "I". This set of cards has been reprinted in The Betrayed Confidence in black & white, and several individual cards appear in date/calendar books in color.

In an exercise that would have driven lesser men mad, Mr. Gorey decided to hand color 76 sets of these postcards (50 numbered and 26 lettered) - that is 1064 individual watercolor paintings (a cover and 13 cards for each set)! I am showing set #29/50. An additional hand signed colophon page is included with each hand colored set signifying the limitation. Of the several hand colored limited edition Gorey pieces created over the years, this is the Holy Grail. The water coloring is magnificently executed, with subtle shadings and metallic paints.

Because of the amount of work involved in creating so many individual painted cards, the Interpretive Series was rather late arriving to be sold through Gotham Book Mart. In 1980, I had the good fortune to be visiting New York City the week these unusual Gorey items were delivered to GBM. At that time, I was still getting myself acquainted with the works of EG and GBM. Thankfully, Matthew Monaghan (director of all things Gorey at GBM at the time) told me not to buy the several books I came in to get, and instead advised me to spend all my money on this single item. I have always been glad I followed that advice!