Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The holy grail of paperback cover art

I've loved Edward Gorey for a long time, since the first PBS Mystery! with his animated opening aired back in 1980s. But it wasn't until I wrote this review of a Gorey show at the local art museum that I discovered he designed a series of classic paperbacks for Anchor Doubleday from 1953 to 1960. Apparently there are about 200; he actually illustrated and hand-lettered about a quarter of them (some of the others were illo'd by such luminaries as Andy Warhol and Milton Glaser but he was the art director). Read all about it here. Now I have...four of them. So I've got to find about 46 more in order to satisfy the crazy completist in me. Yes, I could start targeting them on ebay, alibris, etc but that would drain all the fun from this endeavor, wouldn't it?

I already had Troilus and Cressida on my shelf (Chaucer's version was the topic of my senior thesis) and am ashamed to say that I'd never even noticed it was the hand of Gorey. They're not signed or anything but I mean, duh, I should recognize that quaking line anywhere! The other three volumes I recently plucked from the chaotic bookshelves at my favorite Goodwill. They were scattered amid all the cheeseball romances, smarmy self-help books, hardcover Nora Roberts, and grotesquely stained children's books but obviously they all came from the same place/donor. That naturally sent my mind lurching down the usual course: Who was this learned San Antonian? And shouldn't we have been friends?

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