The enigmatic mind of illustrator and author Edward Gorey made its debut in 1950, after the artist secured a position illustrating book covers for a well-known publishing house in New York. Since then—and even after his death in 2000—Gorey has been a fountain of inspiration for all that is macabre and unusual: from the world of Tim Burton, to the words of Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket).
Described as whimsical and morbid, Gorey’s aesthetic was singular and often depicted Victorian and Edwardian settings. Though he illustrated well over 300 book covers for some of the 20th century’s most celebrated authors including T.S. Eliot, John Updike, Virginia Woolf, H.G. Wells and more, it’s his own words and imagery for which he became renown. During his lifetime Gorey published over 100 works of his own to great acclaim.
“[Edward] Gorey’s unique talent should be represented as completely as possible in every collection of American art and literature,” the American Library Association once noted.
Gorey’s cult following exploded in the late 1970s, after his fixed imagery became reality in the 1977 Broadway revival of Dracula. The same year, Gorey was awarded a Tony Award for Best Costume Design, followed by another Tony Award for Best Scenic Design. Three years later he was commissioned for one of his most recognized works, the animated introduction to PBS’ popular Mystery! series, hosted by the great Vincent Price. In 2018 his original designs still form the basis of Mystery!’s animated sequences.
Gorey traded the New York City hustle for Cape Cod a few years later and, while continuing to publish his own stories, maintained a substantial amount of commercial projects. Later in his career he was drawn back to the stage, directing operas featuring his own paper-mâché puppets, known as Le Theatricule Stoique.
"Not enough praise has been awarded to Gorey’s superb prose,” the Washington Post once wrote. “He possesses the ear of a great parodist… a distinctive vision that is nobody’s but his own. Through his genius and industry, he created a whole climate of the imagination…"
Freeman’s Sept. 27 Books, Maps & Manuscripts sale features an impressive collection of work by Gorey, virtually all signed by the artist himself. The collection is a comprehensive retrospective of Edward Gorey’s working life, and ranges from the traditional to the three-dimensional.