Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘Edward Gorey’

10 JULY, 2013

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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12 MARCH, 2013

The Green Beads: Edward Gorey and the “Disturbed Person”

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“How it knocks my heart!”

Mid-century illustrator extraordinaire Edward Gorey has a wealth of gems under his belt — his legendary grim alphabet, exquisite letters, illustrations for H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, fairy tale adaptations, naughty adult entertainment, and then some. But hardly do any of Gorey’s magnificent stories get more tender, heartening, and heartbreaking than The Green Beads (public library). Originally published in 1978 as a limited edition of 426 signed copies — 400 numbered copies for sale and 26 lettered A-Z reserved for Gorey’s inner circle — it tells the story of Little Tancred who, en route to the store to buy tapioca, meets “a disturbed person whose sex is unclear, wearing a string of green beads around “its” neck. A characteristically grim adventure involving the beads ensues.

But what makes the book particularly poignant is that it’s hard not to see a piece of Gorey himself — old, eccentric, a defiant spirit and sensitive soul, an oft-speculated gay man — in the Disturbed Person, whom only Little Tancred truly sees and who inhabits that elusive neverland between the real and the imagined.

I was fortunate enough to hunt down one of the surviving copies — number 136, to be precise — and have preserved it here for shared enjoyment:

Complement The Green Beads with the charming The Shrinking of Treehorn and consider supporting the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust with a donation to the Edward Gorey House.

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22 FEBRUARY, 2013

Edward Gorey’s Vintage Illustrations for H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds

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Two classic masters of the macabre and wonderful, together.

Beloved mid-century illustrator Edward Goreygrim alphabetician, masterful letter-writer, dispenser of visual snark, semi-secret sort-of-pornographer — was born on this day in 1925. During his seven-year stint living in New York City between 1953 and 1960, he worked at the Doubleday art department — which also employed young Andy Warhol — and illustrated a number of books by famous mainstream authors, including the T. S. Eliot children’s book Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, on which the Broadway musical Cats is based.

At the end of his time at Doubleday, Gorey illustrated a special edition of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (public library) for the celebrated Looking Glass Library series, published in 1960 under the New York Review of Books Classics imprint. One of Gorey’s inimitable pen-and-ink drawings adorns the beginning of each chapter. Here is a taste:

The War of the Worlds, like all things Gorey, is sublime in its entirety. And what better excuse than his birthday for celebrating his life and legacy by supporting the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust with a donation to the Edward Gorey House?

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