Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Eclectic Abecedarium

One of Edward Gorey's most sought after published works is The Eclectic Abecedarium. Published by Bromer Booksellers, Boston, MA in 1983 as a limited edition of 100 deluxe and 300 black and white signed/numbered copies, this miniature book - the volume is only 1 1/16" x 1 5/16" - is completely hand bound by a master book binder. The title of the book is put onto the cover with a pasted-on title label.

In November 2001, Bromer Booksellers issued an illustrated catalog containing 231 listings of Gorey collectibles offered for sale from Anne Bromer's personal collection. In the introduction written by Ms. Bromer, she relates how, after meeting Mr. Gorey at Gotham Book Mart she was able to engage him to write, draw, and design this book. According to her account, Mr. Gorey was most particular in terms of presentation and binding, but was less exact with the financial arrangements or the publication.

I am showing black and white copy #87 in the photo above. The black and white edition is supposed to be numbered from #101 - #400. I recently contacted Bromer Booksellers and they could not explain the numbering on this copy, so either Mr. Gorey made a mistake numbering the books (possibly he forgot to write the "1" of #187), or the binder made a mistake with the signature gathers. I would be interested to find out if anyone knows of a hand colored #87 from this edition.

What makes this alphabet book even more unique is the 100 deluxe copies which feature an elaborate binding, and are hand colored and slipcased. As with other hand colored books by Edward Gorey, the detailing in the watercolor painting is amazing - especially since it is all done in miniature. This signed/numbered, hand colored book is bound in morocco-edged, decorated boards featuring trailing ivy. The boards of the slipcase match those on the book. The slipcase has a special pasted on label which has also been hand colored. A black ribbon was attached to the interior of the slipcase to facilitate removing the book. Of the 100 numbered, deluxe copies, 80 were offered for sale and the remaining copies were reserved for Mr. Gorey's personal use. The deluxe edition completely sold out upon publication. I am showing copy #35 in the above photo.

The Eclectic Abecedarium is included in 1983's Amphigorey Also, but the book loses much of its charm in this printing because the drawings (out of necessity) are stacked and printed on a couple pages. 1985 saw the the first trade printing of this title from Adama Books. Sized as a larger format hardcover (no dust jacket, see photo to the left), the drawings remain true to the original printing and float on each page.

2008 brought a reprint from Pomegranate Books in hardcover with matching dust wrapper (right). In this reprint, each picture has been colorized by computer. Surprisingly, the colors added to the drawings in this book do not match Mr. Gorey's originally intended color schemes.

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