Edward Gorey papers

Yet another side-product of the Gotham Book Mart gift, the Gotham Book Mart collection of Edward Gorey material documents the later (and posthumous) career of the celebrated author, artist, and illustrator.  These papers actually contain very little written by Edward Gorey himself, but I think the collection is more interesting because of this.

Versions of a Gorey print, Ms. Coll. 1185, Box 9, Folder 8

In the late 1970s, Gorey, already nationally established and renowned, formed a company, Doomed Enterprises, to handle the distribution of his work and the licensing and merchandising of his art.  In 1982, Gorey effectively retired to Yarmouthport, Massachusetts, where he was able to live the quiet and secluded life of the artist.  Meanwhile, back in New York, a team of agents and lawyers, which included Gotham Book Mart owner Andreas Brown as vice-president of Doomed Enterprises, promoted Gorey’s legacy, worked out licensing and reproduction deals, and policed the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials.  After Gorey’s death in 2000, Brown continued this work as executor of Edward Gorey’s estate.  It is this business side of Gorey’s life and work – the economics and legal complications of licensing and producing cat dolls or desk calendars, the assiduous cultivation of Gorey’s public image as much more than a quirky illustrator of children’s books – that is represented in this collection.

Buttons for the New York City (or “Kitty”) Ballet, Ms. Coll. 1185, Box 14, Folder 4

A common theme I’ve discovered in these Gotham-related collections has been how broadly applicable these materials can be to scholars of authorship and reading in the 20th century (a community that I myself have had some involvement in).  The Gorey collection is no exception.  The fact that Gorey himself is largely absent from this collection of correspondence, legal agreements, and business transactions says something about the nature of authorship in the 20th century, both as Gorey envisioned it and as it was actually practiced.  Like the Padraic and Mary Colum papers (see also the blog post on the Colum papers), the Gorey collection also reflects the tension between art and commercialism in this era of American history.

But above all, the Gorey collection is simply fun.  In addition to letters and invoices and contracts, we have several boxes of merchandise, including dolls, rubber stamps, mugs, and t-shirts, all bearing Gorey’s designs and images.

Padraic and Mary Colum Papers

Among the many surprising finds in the Gotham Book Mart collection acquired by the Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2008 was a trove of papers of Irish literary figures Padraic and Mary Colum.  Padraic Colum (1881-1972) was a poet, playwright, novelist, biographer, and folklorist, known primarily for his collections of myths and folktales for children, his novels Castle Conquer and The Flying Swans, a volume of collected poetry, and several plays.  Mary Colum (nee Maguire) (1884-1957) was a literary critic known for her memoir, Life and the Dream, the posthumously published Our Friend James Joyce, as well as contributions to such magazines as Scribner’s, The Saturday Review of Literature, and The Forum, where she also served as literary editor.  Born in Ireland, both were associated with William Butler Yeats and other figures of the Irish Literary Revival of the early twentieth century.  Both were involved in the founding of The Irish Review, and Padraic Colum was involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre.  The couple married in 1912 and moved to New York City in 1914.  Residing in the United States for the majority of their lives, Mary Colum taught literature at Columbia University beginning in 1941, while Padraic Colum served as president of the Poetry Society of America from 1938-1939 and as president of the James Joyce Society in the 1960s.

 

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Page from an early draft of Padraic Colum’s novel, The Flying Swans

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Two versions of “Briar Blossoms,” a poem by Padraic Colum.

The Colum collection contains materials that will be of interest to anyone interested in Irish literature and poetry, early twentieth century literary criticism, or the Colums themselves.  Much of Mary Colum’s correspondence is substantive and lively, and the correspondence files most notably contain more than twenty-five letters written to Mary Colum by the poet John Hall Wheelock while he was working at Scribner’s.  Series III and IV contain manuscripts and typescripts by both Mary and Padraic Colum, many of them containing handwritten marginal comments and corrections.  Series III also includes several sets of galley proofs of Mary Colum’s Life and the Dream, again often including marginal notes and corrections.  We were especially excited to uncover several boxes worth of bound notebooks containing early drafts of Padraic Colum’s The Flying Swans, various plays, and miscellaneous prose and poetry.  This material documents the writing process of both authors from original drafting through revisions and final touches.  In a few cases, different variations of a single poem can be traced from the original written form in a notebook to annotated typescript to final, published version. Continue reading