Edward Gorey Pathfinder


Photo courtesy of The Connection, a production of WBUR Boston


Edward Gorey is perhaps most widely known for creating the animated introduction sequence to the PBS Mystery! series, but his career actually began in 1953 with the publication of his first book The Unstrung Harp. Though many of his initial books were universally rejected for publication, Gorey built up a following by self-publishing and marketing his works through the Gotham Book Mart in New York City. Those first limited edition books now sell for anywhere between $100 and $1500. His popularity greatly increased in the 1970s when his Amphigorey collections were published and he won a Tony award for costume design for Dracula. Major influences on his work are easily recognized, such as George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, cats, and such authors as Agatha Christie and Jane Austen. When asked why his books are often about death and dark things, he declared: "What I'm really interested in is everyday life. It's dreadfully hazardous. I never could understand why people always feel they have to climb up Mount Everest when you know it's quite dangerous getting out of bed." ("Gothics by Gorey" Newsweek, October 31, 1977)

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This pathfinder will serve as an introduction to a variety of materials by and about Edward Gorey, the author and artist. It is intended for use in either an academic or public library, but is specifically designed as a guide to sources available in the Academic Affairs Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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LC Subject Headings

Gorey, Edward, 1925-
Gorey, Edward, 1925- Catalogs
Gorey, Edward, 1925- Criticism and interpretation
Gorey, Edward, 1925- Interviews

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Browsing Areas for Gorey's Books

For a complete list of the library's holdings, go to the UNC Library catalog and search with "Gorey, Edward" as author.
PN1997 .B59 (Drama)
PS3513 .O614 (Fiction)
PS3557 .O753 (Mysteries)

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ART--Sloane Art Library
DAVIS--Davis Library Stacks
DAVIS REF--Davis Library Reference Collection
DAVIS REF DESK--Davis Library Reference Desk
SILS--School of Information and Library Science Library
SILS JUV--School of Information and Library Science Juvenile Collection
UL--Undergraduate Library
AMAZON.COM--books available for purchase at http://www.amazon.com

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Recommended Readings

Gorey, Edward. The Gashlycrumb Tinies; or, After the Outing. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963.
[DAVIS PS3513.O614 G3 (8th Floor Stacks)]
    One of Gorey's most widely known books, The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an alphabet book depicting children meeting a horrible demise with each letter.

Heide, Florence Parry. The Shrinking of Treehorn. New York: Holiday House, 1971.
[SILS JUV J Heide]
    Illustrated by Edward Gorey, this is a story for ages 4-8 about a boy who discovers he is shrinking but does not know the cause or cure.

Ross, Clifford and Karen Wilkin. The World of Edward Gorey. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.
[ART NX512 .G67 R67]
    This is an excellent book to start off with in getting to know Edward Gorey. It is lavishly illustrated with examples from Gorey's books and other works. Mr. Ross has included an in-depth interview with the author from 1994 and Ms. Wilkin provides an essay analyzing the themes, technique and life of Gorey. There is a chronological timeline of his life, as well as a bibliography.

Wilkin, Karen, ed. Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey: Interviews. New York: Harcourt Brace, 2001.
[DAVIS NX512.G67 A35 (6th Floor Stacks)]
    This volume is a collection of interviews conducted with Gorey over his lifetime, gathered from various magazines and newspapers. He discusses everything from French symbolist poetry to soap operas, George Balanchine to Victorian photographs of dead children. The interviews provide the reader with insight into Edward Gorey as an artist and a person.

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Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

"Gorey, Edward (St. John)". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1995. 478.
    This is a good concise introduction to Edward Gorey's life and work. The descriptions are evocative and convey the feel for what his books are like.

Garisto, Leslie. "Gorey, Edward [Saint John] (1925- )." The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. Ed. Jack Sullivan. New York: Viking, 1986. 177-178.
[DAVIS REF BF1407 .B46]
    This provides slightly more in-depth information than the Merriam-Webster entry. Comparisons are made between Gorey's work and other artists and authors. Examples from Gorey's books are used to help explain his style and possible influences are mentioned. A brief bibliography is included.

"Gorey, Edward [St. John] 1925-." Pseudonyms and Nicknames Dictionary. Ed. Jennifer Mossman. 3rd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1987. 814.
[DAVIS REF CT120 .P8 (Row 1)]
    All known pseudonyms used by the author are listed.

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"Gorey, Edward (St. John) 1925-." Contemporary Authors: A Bio-bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, and Other Fields. New rev. ser. 78. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 1999. 227-235.
[DAVIS REF Z1010 .C665 (Row 3)]
    Biographical information and criticism on Gorey is pieced together from several magazine articles. A list of awards and honors he received, plus a bibliographical checklist up to 1997 is included. A lengthy interview dated 11/4/88 comprises half of the entry, ending in a brief list of sources for further reading.

"Gorey, Edward St. John 1925-." Something About the Author. Ed. Anne Comire. Vol. 29. Detroit: Gale Research, 1982. 89-100.
[SILS Ref PN 451 .S6 v.29]
    A good bibliographic representation of Gorey's works is listed, along with numerous illustrations from those works. A fairly well rounded, concise biography is told through direct quotes from various interviews with the author over the years. The quotes are well chosen and give the reader a good idea of what Gorey was like.

"Gorey, Edward St. John 1925-." Something About the Author. Ed. Donna Olendorf and Diane Telgen. Vol. 70. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993. 78-85.
[SILS Ref PN451 .S6 v.70]
    This entry is mostly an updated repeat of the 1982 entry, but the biographical essay is original analytical work. There are fewer illustrations as a result.

Street, Douglas. "Edward Gorey (1925-)." Dictionary of Literary Biography: Vol. 61: American Writers for Children Since 1960: Poets, Illustrators, and Non-Fiction Authors. Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. 99-107.
[DAVIS REF PS21 .D5185 1978 v.61 (Row 3)]
    This biographical entry explores the literary life of Edward Gorey, describing his main works in some detail (The Doubtful Guest, The Object Lesson, The Hapless Child, among others). The bibliography is limited to commercially available books up to 1986. Some references are listed.

Further Reading:
Theroux, Alexander. The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2000.
    This book stands as the most comprehensive biography yet written about the reclusive and enigmatic artist. Witty and informative, the book was written by his long-time friend and neighbor.

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Monahan, P. Matthew, comp. "Edward Gorey: A Bibliographical Checklist". American Book Collector ns 6.3 (1985): 25-33.
[SILS Periodical Collection Z990 .A5]
    This is a checklist for Gorey book collectors. The list provides identifiers to determine first editions of these rare and often hard-to-find books. This list is complete in order of publication from 1953's The Unstrung Harp; or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel to 1972's Amphigorey.

Monahan, P. Matthew, comp. "Edward Gorey: A Bibliographical Checklist". American Book Collector ns 6.6 (1985): 38-45.
[SILS Periodical Collection Z990 .A5]
    This checklist is a continuation of the above, from 1973's The Lavender Leotard: or Going a Lot to the New York City Ballet to 1985's The Prune People II.

Further Reading:
Toledano, Henry, et al. Goreyography: A Divers Compendium & Price Guide to the Works of Edward Gorey. San Francisco: Word Play Publications, 1996.
    Goreography is a bibliography and price guide to Edward Gorey's authored works, as well as items he illustrated, magazines he's appeared in, and other collectibles. Resources for locating these highly sought after items are also included.

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Reviews and Journal Articles

Schiff, Stephen. "Edward Gorey and the Tao of Nonsense." The New Yorker. Nov. 9, 1992 68(38): 84-94.
[DAVIS Folio AP2 .N6763 (3rd Floor Stacks)]
    This often referred to interview gives the reader many insights into who Edward Gorey is in real life and his many interests and obsessions. Schiff discusses such things as Gorey's love of the New York City Ballet, musical theatre performances based on Gorey books, Gorey's philosophy of life, and why he chooses to write about children ("It's just so obvious. They're the easiest targets."). This article also contains some of the most personal information elicited in an interview with the author. Inserted in the middle is a bonus, two-page, fully-illustrated short story entitled "Serious Life: A Cruise".

Kent, Allegra. "An Exchange of Letters, Packages, Moonstones and Mailbox Entertainment." Dance Magazine. July 2000 74(7) Edward Gorey Pathfinder : 12-13, 66.
[DAVIS GV1580 .D246 (4th Floor Stacks)]
    Part epitaph, part reminiscence, this narrative by Allegra Kent of the New York City Ballet details how her life was touched by Edward Gorey. The reader gets the opportunity to see how others viewed him.

Tobias, Tobi. "Balletgorey." Dance Magazine. Jan. 1974 48(67): 67-71.
[DAVIS GV1580 .D246 (4th Floor Stacks)]
    Tobias, a well-known figure in the ballet world, interviews Gorey on the publication of The Lavender Leotard. Gorey gives his opinions about the New York City Ballet in general and about specific dancers and ballets. Tobias reviews The Lavender Leotard and makes frequent comparisons to his own impressions of attending the ballet.

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Indexes and Databases

For more reviews like the above, or for interviews and articles about or by Edward Gorey, use the following indexes to do a keyword search with "Gorey, Edward." These indexes are available from the Electronic Indexes and Databases listing at the UNC Libraries homepage. They may only be accessed from the UNC campus, or from off-campus with a valid UNC-CH PID.

Biography & Genealogy Master Index. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2001.
    Biography and Genealogy Master Index indexes various editions of over 700 biographical reference sources, both current and retrospective, that cover historical as well as contemporary figures. Examples of sources indexed would include many of the "Who's Who" indexes, a number of the "Oxford Companions," and the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Searching with "Gorey, Edward" produced 81 results.

Expanded Academic ASAP. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 1980-present.
    Expanded Academic Index includes abstracts or references for articles from more than 1,500 scholarly, trade and general-interest publications, as well as references for The New York Times. The ASAP version adds full-text for many titles. The database integrates core titles in every major academic concentration, including astronomy, religion, law, history, psychology, humanities, current events, sociology, communications and the general sciences; area-specific and issue-specific journals; academic journals with application in the professions; and publications with national news coverage and commentary. Searching with "Gorey, Edward" produced 63 results.

WorldCat. Dublin, OH: OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 1978-2001 copyright, covers 1000 BC to present, updated daily.
    WorldCat is a union catalog of more than 39 million records representing the electronic holdings of several thousand libraries. This database includes bibliographic records for books, dissertations, journals, audio-visual materials and manuscripts, some written as early as the 12th century. Note: This database does not include individual articles, stories in journals, magazines, newspapers, or book chapters. Searching with "Gorey, Edward" produced 185 results total: 161 books, 9 visual, 7 sound, 4 scores, 2 archival, 1 computer, and 1 serial.

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Web Resources

The following is a sampling of Edward Gorey's books excerpted or reproduced completely on-line:
The Disrepectful Summons
The Doubtful Guest (full-text with two illustrations)
The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Glorious Nosebleed (excerpt)
The Listing Attic
The Object Lesson (excerpt)
The Raging Tide, or, The Black Doll's Imbroglio
The Wuggly Ump (excerpt)
Edward Gorey Bibliography, 4 Nov. 2001, updated 10/20/2001, http://www.fearofdolls.com/gorey.html
This is the most complete and informative Gorey site on the web. It includes numerous bibliographies, which are limited to commercially available works only:
  • Works with Gorey as author, illustrator, and contributor
  • Periodical articles about or by the author
  • Sound recordings to which he contributed
  • Foreign titles published
  • Works where Gorey did the typography only
  • Reference books
  • Calendars
The site also features the Uncommon Gorey Gallery (a group of rarely seen illustrations), translations of the French verses in The Listing Attic, a brief biography, a list of theatrical productions he was involved in, and all known pseudonyms, plus links to other Gorey sites.

The Works of Edward Gorey: The West Wing: Goreography, 4 Nov. 2001, http://www.goreyography.com/west/west.htm
Both bibliographical and biographical, Goreyography delivers a comprehensive collection of information about the works of author-artist Edward Gorey. Showcasing not only Gorey's enigimatic genius, Goreyography also exhibits works of lesser known individuals, including but not limited to their paintings, photographs and other forms of artistic expression. This site includes an illustrated bibliography, selected links to online articles, a brief resume-like biography, a list of theatrical productions he was involved with including accompanying illustrations of design notes and playbills, a gallery of his cover art for Doubleday's Anchor Book series, and links to related sites.

the fantod deck: a tarot deck by Edward Gorey, 4 Nov. 2001, http://chokingpear.com/fantod/
An online version of Gorey's humorous Tarot-like deck, by clicking on "Readings" and poking Figbash, your fate will be revealed.

Biography.com, 4 Nov. 2001, http://www.biography.com/index.html
Biography.com is a great place to look for brief biographical information on Edward Gorey and all the other people relevant to his life and work.

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Please send comments and questions to Melissa Sievers at sievm@email.unc.edu
This page was created for INLS-111 at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Last updated Saturday, December 8, 2001