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.
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.
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.