I’ve collected Edward Gorey books and miscellany since high school. Sometimes this has meant shelling out a hundred or two hundred dollars for a first edition or something signed, but it’s also a collection that I can grow on the cheap by scouring the fiction shelves of used bookstores for old Anchor and Vintage paperbacks with Gorey covers. On occasion I’ve spotted them on friends’ bookshelves and negotiated trades.
I adore these little pieces of book art and book history. Hunting them down is a blast, they rarely set me back more than a few bucks, and many of them are beautiful. The books themselves are good or great, the kinds of rich, distinguished works that pose a challenge to an illustrator. Gorey’s solutions are thumbnail interpretations, frequently bold and always fascinating. Sometimes he chooses to draw figures, sometimes landscapes, sometimes interior scenes. For some nonfiction titles, he sticks to abstract designs. In nearly every case, he manages to capture something of the mood of the book. His witty, thoughtful illustrations make you rue Oxford and Penguin’s comparatively lazy practice of slapping paintings on the covers of the books in their paperback Classics series.