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Curious Covers: Edward Gorey's Art for Other Authors (Harris Lobby Exhibits)

Edward Gorey (1925-2000), the American author and illustrator of more than 100 of his own books, also illustrated the covers of over 80 books by other authors such as Edward Lear, H.G. Wells, T.S. Eliot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Ciardi, Peter Neumeyer, and many others.

Gorey designed book covers for a wide variety of literature such as the classics, poetry, horror anthologies, and children’s picture books and novels. Rather than collaborate with other authors on his covers, he drew what he felt best evoked the essence of the book. As he explained, "They usually produce the text, and I do the drawings without consulting them."

His book covers all have his distinctive style, with his vaguely Victorian/Edwardian linear pen and ink drawings. The covers have strong unique compositions, and display his intricate cross-hatching and signature hand-lettering. Even the spines have his hand-drawn typography, making them stand out on a bookshelf. The best of these covers feature the same macabre yet whimsical sensibility found in Gorey's own works. He once said, "My mission in life is to make everyone as uneasy as possible."

Gorey’s art was influenced by the Surrealists, especially Max Ernst, and by artists such as Balthus, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee, Francis Bacon, and Johannes Vermeer. He also had a fondness for 19th-century book illustration and silent films. He taught himself to draw, only completing a few courses at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gorey's works have an avid following throughout the world. A few years before his death, he reflected upon his career. "My name turns up in a review of a book or something where they say it’s very 'Edward Goreyish' or something like that. That happens often enough, so I feel I’ve made a tiny mark somewhere."

Exhibited curated by Yvette Cortes, Fine Arts Librarian

The exhibit will be on display in the Harris Lobby in the Scribner Library through November.