Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Goreyana!

I hope everyone has a Merry Gorey Christmas! even Gorey-er New Year!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Terrors of Christmas

The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, written by John Updike and illustrated by Edward Gorey, was an instant success for Gotham Book Mart. Both men must have gotten tired of signing their names inside the various limited editions of this title - in 1993, GBM published two separate editions of this book with a third edition in 1994!

This delightful book is for anyone who gets a little too stressed out each December. The twelve biggest pitfalls of the Christmas season are comically outlined by Mr. Updike, and Mr. Gorey's artwork will make you laugh out loud.

Published concurrently in 1993 was a deluxe edition of 126 hardback copies and a limited edition of 500 copies in wrappers (paperback). The deluxe copies have an illustrated tan paper cover and no dustwrapper. These copies consist of 100 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies. I am showing copies Z/26 and #26/100.

The first limited edition printing from 1993 consists of 500 numbered copies in tan wrappers. I am showing copy #404/500.

This title proved to be so popular that in 1994 a "first trade edition" was published in pale green wrappers. This edition was not generally signed by Mr. Updike, but GBM managed to get the author to sign a few copies. The book I am showing is signed by both author and illustrator on the title page. Below, I am showing the announcement card for this publication.
The Twelve Terrors of Chrismas remains popular today. In 2006, Pomegranate came out with a hardback reprint (with green covers) that is still available.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Retrieved Locket

Published in 1994 by Edward Gorey's Fantod Press, The Retrieved Locket is a tale of loss and grief. This title was published in an signed, limited edition of 500 numbered and 26 lettered copies. I am showing copies #W/26 and #252/500. The announcement card appears below.

This story was first published as A Serious Life: The Retrieved Locket in Anteas number 75/76 in Autumn 1994. It was also included in Amphigorey Again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Auction News

The December 9th, 2010 auction at Bloomsbury Auctions is getting more press than usual for an Edward Gorey themed auction. This is to a large degree because of the fur coats which will be on the block this week.

There have also been several interesting Gorey discussions on line because of the added attention brought on by this auction. On one blog: , the topic of Edward Gorey as a "cult figure" has been addressed. What constitutes a cult following as opposed to just being popular?

Oh, and by the way...Thursday December 9th, 2010 is my 50th birthday. Maybe I need a birthday present from the auction. Hmmmm....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Auction News

2010 has been a banner year for auctions featuring the works of Edward Gorey. The autumn sales at Pacific Book Auction and Swann Auction Galleries are behind us, but a unique auction is coming up on December 9th at Bloomsbury Auctions in New York.

This auction showcases 14 fur coats once owned and worn by Mr. Gorey, which are being auctioned individually. Also included are many bundled lots of books written and/or illustrated by EG (including one grouping of books by John Bellairs), a piece of original artwork, and ephemera. Proceeds from this auction will benefit the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and the Edward Gorey House.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie

The next title in the John Bellairs' book series is The Drum, the Doll, and the Zombie. This is the third story where Brad Strickland completed an unfinished manuscript (or outline) left by Mr. Bellairs when he died. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York in 1994, this title is the ninth book to chronicle the adventures of Johnny Dixon, his friend Fergie and the ever cantankerous Professor Childermass.
Edward Gorey created a dust wrapper painting which shows two scenes, one on the front cover and one on the rear. While the rear cover shows an intriguing image, the front cover design is the star of this show. The front of the book features a zombie carrying Johnny away into the night, while Professor Childermass confronts it with a flashlight. I have not seen this artwork in person, but close examination of the printed image reveals how the white paper is left unpainted for the beam of light, while the background is painted all around the glowing stream. Mr. Gorey shows exceptional control of his watercolor paints in this image.

I find it amusing that Edward Gorey took the liberty of turning the face of the zombie green in his painting, giving it a "Frankenstein's Monster" look. The description in the book states that the zombie is deathly pale with dead eyes. There is also an amusing story about the interior art posted on - Mr. Stickland sent a sketch to show Mr. Gorey what he intended for the illustration which appears on page 125. Mr. Gorey forwarded the original sketch to the publisher explaining that he could not improve on the art!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Figbash Acrobate

Published by the Fantod Press in 1994, Figbash Acrobate is a book of typography by Aedwyrd Gore (Edward Gorey anagram). This book consists of drawings of Figbash playing charades with the 26 capital letters of the alphabet and numbers 0 through 9. Each page features a single number or letter.

Figbash Acrobate was issued in an hand signed edition of 500 numbered and 26 lettered (A to Z) copies. Mr. Gorey signed the colophon page as Aedwyrd Gore. The cover of this perfect bound paper back book is printed front and back on powder blue card stock. This stock is especially prone to fading in sunlight, so pristine copies will become increasingly difficult to locate as time goes on. I am showing copy #381/500 and lettered copy X. Figbash's athletic impersonations are included in Amphigorey Again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuffed Creatures Part 3: Edward Gorey Commercial Made Dolls

Our final area of Edward Gorey collectible stuffed dolls & toys is the commercially made items (see my postings from October 6 & 28, 2010 for previous discussions on stuffed toys). The commercial dolls come in several different forms. Some had limited availability, while others were, and occasionally still are, available through catalogs such as Signals.

The rarest of the commercially made dolls is the limited edition Doubtful Guest figure which was created in 1974 under Mr. Gorey's supervision. This doll was discussed fully in my posting on October 20, 2008.

There were five characters created by Toy Works in the late 1970's and 1980. Each bean bag animal features full color printing on fabric, is stuffed with hard plastic beads, and each has a printed copyright date. The animals are printed front and back and the detailing on these pieces is really wonderful.

The Toy Works collection includes a Bat (1980), Cat (1978), Pig (1979), Frog (1980), and a Rabbit (1980).
The Toy Works Bat is the most common of the dolls and one of the most wonderful. The fabric is printed with Edward Gorey's distinctive cross hatching which has been shaded to give the doll more three dimensionality. The eyes of the creature are red rhinestones and the wings are stitched and stiffened. With its 14.5" wingspan, the bat is the largest of the Toy Works collection.
The Toy Works Cat is a favorite amongst collectors. Each 6.5" cat wears a printed sweater with boldly colored stripes. Cats were available wearing orange/yellow or two tone blue sweaters.
The Toy Works Pig is an animal of sartorial distinction. This pant-less farm animal stands approximately 7" tall and is attired in a snappy vest, bow tie, and jacket. Pigs are usually printed with pink skin, but I have a second example with light purple skin.
The Toy Works Cat & Pig were also available as "Sew It Yourself" kits. Unopened kits are fairly uncommon.
The Toy Works Frog is a collegiate fellow and can be relatively difficult to find. Decked out in a letter sweater and tennis shoes, this amphibian is ready for the big game. The frog is approximately 7.5" in length when laid flat and has button eyes. The frog is the most acrobatic of the animals. He can lay flat, drape over the edge of chair, or sit up to watch the game.

The Toy Works Rabbit is by far the rarest of the animals. At approximately 6" tall this snappy fellow is boldly adorned in a green jacket and orange/yellow kilt. When I first encountered a stuffed rabbit years ago at Matthew Monahan's NYC apartment, he told me that this animal was not put into regular production, and very few were created. The fact that I have only seen of three examples in 30 years of collecting reinforces this opinion. The example pictured to the left belongs to a fellow collector.

A Bah Humbug doll accompanied the limited edition of The Headless Bust. Since the book had an edition of 776 copies, there were 776 dolls made. These dolls have tons of personality and can be set about in many different positions.

A small number of extra Bah Humbug dolls were made and were sold individually by Gotham Book Mart. One interesting thing about the Bah Humbug dolls is that some were printed facing left and some facing right. I am not sure which is more prevalent or if there were equal numbers of each.
In 2003, Gund came out with a stuffed Gorey Cat doll. These cats come with different colored, removable knitted sweaters. The detailing on these plush pussycats is fantastic. They look like they stepped right out of an Edward Gorey illustration.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Curse of the Blue Figurine Original Artwork

I recently acquired a piece of original artwork created by Edward Gorey for John Bellairs' The Curse of the Blue Figurine. The book was published in 1983 and there is more information on this title in my posting from May 24, 2009. This frightening image was used as the frontis illustration and is reprinted full size in the book. The drawing is signed in ink by Mr. Gorey.

This beautifully rendered pen & ink illustration shows a menacing figure with glowing eyes being held at bay by Professor Childermass in a cave on a stormy night. The unconscious Johnny Dixon is being pulled away from the figure by the fearful Professor.

The skill of Edward Gorey's crosshatching technique in this piece of art is a master class in line manipulation. In this single image Mr. Gorey uses variations of line to render the cave, figures, rain outside the cave, fire, smoke from the fire, and the enveloping darkness surrounding them. I especially like the two pinpoint glowing eyes of the advancing figure which are added with small dots of white paint.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dancing Rock & Floating Elephant

If The Pointless Book got me angry with Edward Gorey (see my posting from October 16, 2010), then The Dancing Rock and The Floating Elephant sent me into despair. Fortunately, there were still many gaps to be filled in my collection, so there were lots of interesting books, prints and artwork to collect even though these newly published volumes were disappointing.
The Dancing Rock/Floating Elephant is a simplistic flip book that can be viewed "dos-a-dos", meaning that the flip book could be used in either direction. One side features a rock that moves across the page, then the book is turned over and the rock is replaced by an elephant. Edward Gorey had always experimented with unusual formats in his books and it seemed natural that an animated flip book would become part of his offerings.
The Dancing Rock by Ogdred Weary and The Floating Elephant by Dogear Wryde was published in 1993. No publisher is listed for this title. A signed, limited edition of 100 copies was issued in a plain white envelope. The limitation is the most interesting thing about this book. Inside one cover, the limitation goes forward from 1/100 and is signed by one "author", flipping the book, the limitation descends from 100/100 and is signed by the other "author". My limited edition is signed 6/100 Dogear Wryde & 95/100 Ogdred Weary. The second book I am showing is the regular edition and none of the non-limited copies are signed. I am also showing the announcement card from Gotham Book Mart.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from Goreyana!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuffed Creatures Part 2: Edward Gorey Hand Made Dolls

In my posting from October 6, 2010, I began a discussion of stuffed creatures and toys which are based on the works of Edward Gorey. The second area we will explore are the bean bag animals made by Edward Gorey himself. These are the rarest and most valuable of the Gorey stuffed dolls. Mr. Gorey made dolls himself in very limited quantities - making the patterns, cutting the fabric, sewing and stuffing the dolls - usually while watching television in the evenings.

Edward Gorey almost always stuffed these creatures with rice. I once saw a short film on Mr. Gorey where he demonstrated how he would push the rice into the figures using a chopstick. Because he used a food staple to fill his creatures, they are susceptible to high humidity and to invasions by bugs or mice if they are not stored properly. I was told that after Mr. Gorey's death, a box of half eaten creatures was found in his home. I have discussed proper storage suggestions for these rare pieces in my posting from March 31, 2010.

There are five main creatures that Edward Gorey created himself: Figbash, Bats, Frogs, Elephants and Salamanders. I have heard that there he also made some fantasy creatures, but I have not seen any of these myself (some were reportedly in the box of half eaten dolls). Rarely sold during his lifetime, Mr. Gorey usually gave his creatures to friends and associates as gifts. The notable exception are the Figbash dolls.

Figbash - The most obtainable of all the creatures he created, a black Figbash doll originally accompanied each of the 26 lettered copies of The Raging Tide. Figbash dolls were next offered in black or white fabric for sale in the lobby at his theatrical shows which were performed near his home. Eventually, Gotham Book Mart was able to procure Figbash dolls in a variety of fabrics, which were offered for sale to collectors. I have several Figbash dolls in my collection (see my posting from March 31, 2010).

Bats - Created in shiny silver (and sometimes pink satin) fabric, bats were made for friends. Mr. Gorey created a handful of bat dolls to decorate one friend's Christmas tree, and it was rumored that he gave each cast member of Dracula a bat doll (I have not been able to confirm this story). I do not have a bat in my collection - the photo is from an auction listing.

Frogs - I have a wonderful Gorey frog in my collection. Like the commercially produced frogs (to be discussed in a later posting), these amphibians can lay splayed flat or sit up in a wonderfully lumpy way. The frogs have button eyes. I was told that Mr. Gorey created a frog out of holiday fabric for each cast member of his play Stumbling Christmas.

Elephants - I have yet to add one of these fantastically floppy pachyderms to my every expanding menagerie. The elephant in the photo was offered by Bromer Booksellers in their 2001 catalog. Elephants are fairly elusive and rarely become available. They are also the most three dimensional of all the Gorey-made dolls.

Salamanders - The rarest of the creatures (I believe), the salamander is practically an abstract animal bean bag. The example in my collection is made in a deliciously "mod" black and white dotted fabric which adds to the Rorschach quality of this toy. The tail is sewn in a twisted curly-cue and the head looks like a pair of pincers. This stuffed animal must have been particularly difficult to sew, turn inside out and then stuff with rice.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder

Brad Strickland took on the job of completing and/or writing books for stories left behind by John Bellairs when the author died in 1991. The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder is the second title completed by Mr. Strickland in the series. Published in 1993 by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder takes place concurrently with the events outlined in Mr. Strickland's previous book, The Ghost in the Mirror (see my posting from September 22, 2010).

Once again, Edward Gorey was retained to create a full color painting for the dust jacket, a black & white frontis illustration, and a spot illustration of a maze pictured on page 32. The drawing of the maze appears to be lost, but the dust jacket and frontis original artwork are not.

Bromer Booksellers sold the dust jacket artwork (two pieces of original art: one large color painting and one hand-lettered title typography) in their now famous 2001 catalog of Edward Gorey artwork, books and ephemera. The dust jacket image does not read particularly well as a single piece of art, but the execution and subject matter are top notch. The skeleton wearing glasses with plants growing up through it on the back cover of the book is particularly delightful.

I was not able to obtain the color dust jacket artwork from Bromer, but I was fortunate enough to secure the frontis illustration (from Gotham Book Mart). In this fantastically spooky illustration, a ghostly figure appears outside a window, distressing Lewis so he drops his candlestick (the book he is holding in his other hand will soon burst into flames!). The moody crosshatching is perfectly executed, with the ghostly head and hands of the apparition glowing against the midnight sky.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Auction News

The past two weeks were Edward Gorey madness at auction houses on separate ends of the country.

On October 7, 2010 Pacific Book Auction in San Francisco sold the collection (with additional items added) of Henry Toledano, author of Goreyography - the 1996 Edward Gorey bibliographical checklist. The auction featured over 100 lots of Gorey material. Bidding was strong for the material which included many signed, limited edition books and ephemera. A number of unusual prints were sold, including the rare Elephantamos (one of 26 lettered sets of nine prints featuring elephant-headed figures). For books, the star of the show was a copy of The Raging Tide, copy "J" of 26 lettered copies that came with a stuffed Figbash doll - hand made by Edward Gorey himself. This was the first appearance of these rare dolls, which have become much sought after by collectors.

Following up the excitement at PBA, Swann Galleries in New York City threw its own Gorey Party on Thursday, October 14th. If the first auction was a delicious meal, this second auction was a feast for Gorey collectors. Many of the rarest Gorey collectibles were offered in just under 50 lots, and some stellar prices were realized. The two stars of this show were the limited edition Amphigorey (#34 of 50 copies accompanied by an original piece of artwork - art later published in Categor y), and The Sopping Thursday (#C of 26 lettered copies with an original piece of artwork). Even though these two lots took top billing, this auction was chock full of items which rarely become available. The quality and variety of the items was reinforced by the exceptionally strong bidding throughout this auction, with only a few lots not being sold.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Pointless Book

The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art is probably Edward Gorey's most aptly named work.
The publication of a new volume by Edward Gorey was always an event. As collectors, we were told when something new was on the horizon, and the anticipation was palpable as the publication date drew near. An exercise in seeing just how mad his devotees really were, The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art consists of pen scratchings (Nature) or squiggles (Art) on each page. It has been called existential, minimalist, and avante garde - but pointless is the correct word - and we are all pre-warned on the cover! I will go so far as to say I got mad at Mr. Gorey when this book arrived in the mail.

The Pointless Book: or Nature & Art by Garrod Weedy was published in 1993 by The Fantod Press with the copyright on the back cover. According to F is for Fantods by Edward Bradford, about 400 copies total of this book were printed. The book has a limited edition of 100 copies which have been signed and numbered by Mr. Gorey as "Garrod Weedy" inside the front cover and these signed copies were issued in a plain white envelope. I am showing copy #98/100, and an unsigned copy. Mr. Gorey did not sign any of the "regular" copies of this title. The announcement card from The Gotham Book Mart is shown to the left.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Edward Gorey Stuffed Characters & Creatures

An interesting Edward Gorey collecting area is Stuffed Creatures. Stuffed Gorey characters fall into three main categories:

1) Stuffed animals and creatures made by Edward Gorey himself.
2) Commercially made Gorey stuffed dolls, including limited edition dolls.
3) Home-made dolls based on Edward Gorey characters.

The third category is the hardest to define because, like Gorey-inspired tattoos which I have run across in person and on the internet, there probably are a multitude of home-made stuffed creatures floating around in private collections.

In a previous post (January 19, 2009), I have shown and discussed the Henry Clump doll which my partner Bill made and then presented to me in unique packaging 30 years ago.

For a Christmas gift two years ago, I was surprised with a "Black Doll" which Bill made for me. It is an appropriately squishy black velvet creation that now resides with Henry in a chair in our library.

Bill has been an industrious creature craftsman. About 20 years ago, he sewed a stuffed "Twisby" as a toy for one of our dogs, but the doll (and sadly the dog) are just a happy memory at this point in time.

I will show dolls from the first two other collecting areas in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Halloween Madness

Ok...I know this isn't strictly Edward Gorey related, but I had to share it with everyone. While walking our dogs this evening we came across this totally unique lawn decoration about a block from our house. It made us both laugh out loud and we wanted to get a photo before something happened to it. Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Ghost in the Mirror

The Ghost in the Mirror was the first John Bellairs story to be completed by Brad Strickland. Published in 1993 by Dial Books for Young Readers, The Ghost in the Mirror returns Lewis Barnavelt, Uncle Jonathan, Mrs. Zimmerman and Rose Rita Pottinger to the book series after a long absence. The story of how Brad Strickland came to work on, and eventually continue the Bellairs books is detailed on in the bibliography section.

Edward Gorey created the artwork for the dust jacket and the frontis illustration for this title. Mr. Strickland's name does not appear on the dust jacket because the cover art was completed and printed before Mr. Bellairs passed away, so "Completed by Brad Strickland" only appears on the title page.

This piece of original art by Edward Gorey is a masterpiece of suspense and terror. If you did not know that it was a piece of dust jacket artwork, you would view it as a wonderfully creepy painting by Mr. Gorey. Barely visible on the printed dust jacket are two faces which appear on the front cover inside the "O" of Ghost and Mirror. They can be seen a bit more clearly floating in the sky on the original art.

The dust jacket painting was included in Bromer Booksellers 2001 catalog of Gorey items. The hand-lettered type for the cover/spine was included as a separate piece of art. I am not aware of the frontis drawing being available from Bromer or Gotham Book Mart.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Dracula Pillow Designs

After my posting on August 22, 2010, the folks at the Edward Gorey House were kind enough to find the pillow I showed in my posting and forward a better photo for everyone to see. Standing in the gallery, Assistant Director Duncan Gibson (on the right) and his partner Morgan are shown holding the pillow for a better view. This photo also gives a glimpse of the current exhibition and shows just how many wonderful books, artwork and objects are on display.

While taking another look at my previous posting/photo, I realized that I forgot to point out that Director Rick Jones is thumbing through a sketchbook of rough sketches for the pillows (click on the photo to enlarge). This is a good example of each step of the working methods Edward Gorey went through for this stage production. The first step was to sketch and jot down notes on his ideas in a notebook. The second step was to refine and define his ideas into a finished piece of art which was given to the theater's set crew. The final step was to use the drawings to create the life sized sets and set decorations.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Grand Passion & The Doleful Domesticity

Edward Gorey's The Grand Passion and The Doleful Domesticity were published in 1992 by the Fantod Press. The Doleful Domesticity was first printed in the Yale Review in the Summer of 1991, and the cover has black printing on hot pink card stock (which my scanner shows as white in the photo below). The Grand Passion appeared in The New York Times Magazine in June 1976, and was included in Amphigorey Also. The cover has black printing on yellow card stock.

The two books were issued together as a signed, numbered, limited edition of 500 sets in a printed envelope (see below) and were not sold individually. Each pair of books has the same limitation number. I am showing copies #212/500. The announcement card used to promote this publication is shown at the bottom of the posting.

The Grand Passion is an operatic tale featuring a caricature Oriental couple which could have stepped straight out of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado. In 1983, Mr. Gorey created sets and costumes for a production of The Mikado which was presented at Carnegie Mellon University.

In The Doleful Domesticity, what appears to be the same couple are moving house with their baby and young child. Both of these tales are wonderfully disjointed in the best Edward Gorey fashion.