Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Bellairs Archive, Part 3 - Edward Gorey

Jean Gavril, Senior Editor at Dial Books informed author John Bellairs on June 1, 1972 that Edward Gorey had been contracted to illustrate The House With A Clock In Its Walls. From this point onwards, the production and publication of the book was dependent upon Edward Gorey completing the artwork.  

In a letter dated August 10, 1972, Mrs. Gavril writes:

Unfortunately, the expectations of the publisher expressed in this letter that they would receive sketches to approve were a bit optimistic. Edward Gorey was quoted in more than one interview to state that he really didn't collaborate in the traditional sense. After accepting a commission Mr. Gorey would read the material, decide what to illustrate based on his response to the writing, then sent the completed artwork to the publisher. He would rework or redraw an illustration if there was an issue with an image, but he usually just got to work and submitted the finished artwork without a lot of back and forth feedback.

The next mention of artwork comes in a letter dated November 10, 1972:

The * refers to a hand written p.s. stating that the art had already been sent to the printer but describes the drawing, "it's the final bonfire scene + it's smashing, complete with chocolate chip cookies."
This letter also confirmed that the author would receive official notification from Dial about the royalty change in his contract. Mr. Bellairs' originally agreed upon 10% royalty "will be divided with Edward Gorey on the basis of 9%-1% split." This news was most likely not received by the author with enthusiasm and probably reinforced the need to hire a literary agent to represent him, which he secured by April 1973. 

By December 14, 1972 Edward Gorey had completed the wrap around cover/dust wrapper design for the book:

In the 1990's I saw the original artwork for the House cover/DJ and remember it as being not so much drawn as composed. The various floating elements were individually drawn, cut out and pasted in place on the master drawing. Edward Gorey drew the art for the book at the finished size it would be printed and this piece was quite impressive in person.

The first few months of 1973 yielded no additional drawings from Edward Gorey and everyone was getting edgy as the publisher had been promoting and taking orders for the book and were anxious to get the presses running. 

Over time, the letters between author and editor had become increasingly personal as their working relationship progressed. In his letter dated February 26, 1973, John Bellairs adds an interesting personal note on his request for a reading copy of House:

Crossing one another in the mail, this letter was sent to John Bellairs on February 28, 1973:

March 16:

And just shy of one year after Edward Gorey was contracted to illustrate The House With A Clock In Its Walls, this letter was sent to the author on April 18, 1973:

An amusing July letter regarding the House artwork reads in part:

This is the chapter title drawing that flummoxed the editor:

The remaining letters in the folder referencing House discuss how the book is being received and reviewed, but most of the content is related to notes for the second book in "the Lewis Trilogy". A mention in an earlier letter following a Dial sales conference congratulates the author on the positive prepublication reception House was receiving for the story itself and "not just the Gorey illustrations".

Coming next: Edward Gorey signs on for book 2.


1 comment:

Mike V said...

Have been following your blog for a few years now, this series has been a really great read and entirely fascinating! Looking forward to more installments