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

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?


The Shrinking of Treehorn: An Edward Gorey Illustrated Gem, 1971

The unusual story of a little boy who grows littler.

As a lover of vintage children’s books and of Edward Gorey’s intricate and irreverent illustrations, I was delighted to stumble upon an original first edition of the 1971 gem The Shrinking of Treehorn (public library), written by Florence Parry Heide and illustrated by Gorey. This first installment in the Treehorn trilogy, followed by Treehorn’s Treasure (1981) and Treehorne’s Wish (1986), tells the curious Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-Benjamin-Button story of a little boy who is shocked to discover that he is shrinking, but can’t figure out the cause or the cure.

Something very strange was happening to Treehorn.

The first thing he noticed was that he couldn’t reach the shelf in his closet that he had always been able to reach before, the one where he hid his candy bars and bubble gum.

The Shrinking of Treehorn and the other two books in the series were eventually reprinted in 2011 in a single volume, The Treehorn Trilogy. Complement it with some Gorey’s other gems, including his snarky illustrated commentary on 1960s culture, his classic gory alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies, his Little Red Riding Hood adaptation, and his frisky story for adults only.


Thoughtful Alphabets: Edward Gorey’s Lost Cryptic 26-Word Illustrated Stories

A delightfully dark journey into the love of language.

Having a soft spot for all things Edward Gorey and unusual alphabet books, I was thrilled by Pomegranate’s new edition of Thoughtful Alphabets: The Just Dessert and The Deadly Blotter (public library) — a collection of two cryptic 26-word stories, in which the word begin with the letters of the alphabet in order and the story progresses as the alphabet does in parallel.

The stories belong to a mid-90s “Thoughtful Alphabets” series, the first six volumes of which were released as hand-lettered posters illustrated with clip-art. Then, several years ago, stories numbers XI and XVII emerged as signed limited-edition books featuring Gorey’s original drawings — but the books quickly went out of print. In this beautiful resurrection, Gorey’s signature blend of wit and dark whimsy shines in each of the micro-vignettes — a fine complement to his beloved alphabet classic, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Illustrations © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, courtesy Pomegranate. All rights reserved.


Edward Gorey Illustrates Little Red Riding Hood and Other Classic Children’s Stories

An irreverent take on some of history’s most beloved storytelling.

After exploring classic children’s stories through the lenses of architecture and minimalist graphic design, Three Classic Children’s Stories (public library) brings the unmistakable Edward Gorey aesthetic of the irreverent fancy to Little Red Riding Hood, Jack the Giant-Killer, and Rumpelstiltskin, charmingly retold by James Donnelly. The result is a gem that lives somewhere between the best of the Brothers Grimm, early Arabian Nights illustrations, and Harry Clarke’s haunting artwork for Edgar Allan Poe, with the distinct Gorey flair.

From Little Red Riding Hood:

WHUMP and a minor cloud of dust! Something leapt into the path. Little Red Riding Hood hastily arose, and her eyes met the curious gaze of a great gray wolf.

From Jack the Giant-Killer:

Bu he took one step, and the ground fell away beneath him, and he tumbled, OOF, into Jack’s giant-trap. Jack stepped up smartly and swung his shovel: WHANG.

From Rumpelstiltskin:

Away down a hole, away Down Below,
Never sorrow over milk that’s spilt! Spin
Around, go to ground, take a baby,
leave a crown,
Just a job o’ work to Rumpelstiltskin!

Whimsical and just the right amount of hair-raising, Three Classic Children’s Stories will make you look at these timeless storytelling treasures with new eyes, eyes that glimmer with Gorey’s signature inspired idiosyncrasy.

Illustrations © The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, courtesy Pomegranate. All rights reserved.


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