Edward Gorey’s Illustrated Covers for Literary Classics
Spooky Treatments of Kafka, Dickens, Conrad, and More
Between 1953 and 1960, before he was a household name as the master of the cutely macabre, Edward Gorey worked as a book designer and illustrator for Doubleday Anchor. During his tenure, he designed some fifty book covers (and in some cases, drew inside illustrations) for their new paperback series, which was aimed at “serious” readers and students. (He also illustrated and designed for lots of other writers’ books outside of the Doubleday gig, of course, in addition to writing and illustrating over a hundred of his own.) As collector Lance Casebeer wrote, “there is a haunting thematic consistency about the Gorey-drawn covers.
Nearly always there is an implied relationship between a “character of innocence”, often depicted as being apart from a group and a “man in black” character. Occasionally this dark embodiment is represented as a mansion (The Wanderer) or sinister statue (The Secret Agent). The best of these covers demonstrate the same whimsical morbidity found in Gorey’s narrative works delineated in his meticulous crosshatch style reminiscent of Nineteenth Century book illustration. They are true pendants to the larger body of his work.
Below, some of Gorey’s best book covers for literary classics—other than his own, of course.