Brain Pickings

Edward Gorey’s Vintage Book Covers for Literary Classics

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Melville, Conrad, Colette, Chekhov, Chaucer, Gogol, Kafka, Shaw, Pushkin, and more.

The great Edward Gorey, mid-century master of the macabre and darkly delightful, was a prolific illustrator of his own irreverent books like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Curious Sofa: A Pornographic Work by Ogdred Weary , The Shrinking of Treehorn, among countless others, and would occasionally illustrate existing literature, like classic fairy tales, H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, and T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. But Gorey, unbeknownst to many, also designed dozens of book covers, including a number for some of literary history’s greatest classics during the paperback revolution, primarily while working at the Doubleday art department between 1953 and 1960. Here are his finest such masterpieces:

'Lafcadio's Adventures' by André Gide (Doubleday, 1953)

'The Black Girl in Search of God' by Bernard Shaw (Capricorn, 1959)

'Redburn: His First Voyage' by Herman Melville (Doubleday, 1957)

'My Mother's House and the Vagabond' by Colette (Doubleday, 1955)

'Come Back, Dr. Caligari' by Donald Barthelme (Doubleday, 1964)

'Picture of Millie' by P. M. Hubbard (London House & Maxwell, 1964)

'Pleasures and Days and Other Writings' by Marcel Proust (Doubleday, 1957)

'The Secret Agent' by Joseph Conrad (Doubleday, 1953)

'Victory' by Joseph Conrad (Doubleday, 1957)

'Chance' by Joseph Conrad (Doubleday, 1957)

'War of the Worlds' by H. G. Wells (Doubleday, 1960)

'St. Peter's Day and Other Tales' by Anton Chekhov (Doubleday, 1959)

'Troilus & Criseyde' by Geoffrey Chaucer (Vintage, 1966)

'Tales of Good and Evil' by Nikolai Gogol (Doubleday, 1957)

'Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard' translated by Lee M. Hollander (Doubleday, 1960)

'Lady Barberina and Other Tales' by Henry James (Grosset & Dunlap, 1961)

'The Ambassadors' by Henry James (Doubleday, 1958)

'The Awkward Age' by Henry James (Doubleday, 1958)

'What Maisie Knew' by Henry James (Doubleday, 1954)

'Amerika' by Franz Kafka (Doubleday, 1955)

'The Masters' by C. P. Snow (Doubleday, 1959)

'The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories' by Alexander Pushkin (Vintage, 1957)

'The Romance of Tristan and Iseult,' as retold by Joseph Bédier (Doubleday, 1953)

'The Web and the Rock' by Thomas Wolfe (Grosset & Dunlap, 1939)

'Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats' by T. S. Eliot (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982)

Find more Gorey gold in the Brain Pickings archive — including some rare, limited-edition vintage gems — and swing by my Pinterest collection of Gorey art.

Metafilter; portrait of Gorey via Vol. 1 Brooklyn

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