Edward Gorey paperback covers

January 13, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


In 1953, Doubleday began their Anchor Books line of “academic” mass market paperbacks (as opposed to pulpy mass market paperbacks). Edward Gorey was hired as the designer of the new line, a position he held until 1960. Although he didn’t draw the covers for all 200 of the books published at this time, he had his hand in all of them, and about fifty or so are completely Gorey. (You’ll find a more detailed history here, at Goreyography).


I’ve been buying a lot of Gorey’s Anchor Books lately. I won’t say I’m collecting them–collecting takes a certain kind of mania, and collecting more than two or three things at a time quickly becomes a mental and emotional drain–but I am picking up whatever I happen to stumble across. 


I’ve always liked Gorey, but I’ve also always found a certain sameness to his work. A kind of oh-yes-another-kid-with-an-hatchet sort of feeling comes over me when I pass the little Gorey section in my local bookstore. But the Anchor covers made him step outside of his comfort zone, and the results are pretty astounding. You could always count on Gorey to design the cover of, say, Dracula. But what about something like The American Transcendentalists

2150405884_9bf9177304There is a kind of melancholy in all of these covers. Almost as though he sought out the darkest, or loneliest, corners of the book from which to draw his inspiration. 

anchor-doubleday-1Of course, the usual Gorey weirdness is there as well.

2196457117_6179e21827And here are a few more.

anchor-doubleday-3anchor-doubleday-121Most of these titles can be had for a few bucks. I’m sure I can just go to ebay and buy them all at once, but it’s been fun sifting through the stacks of mass market books at thrift stores and flea markets. And one of these days I’m bound to find another copy of The Wanderer to replace the one I lost a few years back. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


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