From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey

Largest Public Gorey Exhibit now at the San Diego State University Library

Open and free to the public. Check library for hours.

Extended through August 6, 2004.

For more information about this exhibit, please call Roberta Niederjohn at (619) 594-4991 or Special Collections at (619) 594-6791

The SDSU Library is located on the SDSU campus at 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, California

Visit the SDSU Infodome

25 March 2004      Special to Goreyography

Any zealous Edward Gorey collector knows that there are more things to find than time to find them. Few are those who can say they have all Mr. Gorey touched. Despite that, or maybe because of it, one of the fears as a collector is the prospect of becoming jaded, even blasé toward my own pursuits. Happily, relief from such concerns comes in the form of an exhibition now on display beneath San Diego State University library's greenish 'InfoDome'.

Prodigy to Polymath, main exhibit

Bejewelled with items selected by none other than SDSU alumnus Andreas Brown ('55), designed by special collections director Cristina Favretto and staged by Marita Johnson and Jossie Chavez, 'From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey' weighs in at a new heavy-weight class of exhibition, as far as Gorey exhibits go. Not since Phantasmagorey, Clifford Ross's exhibition at Yale in 1974 has there been such a rich collection of significant artwork, manuscripts, sketches, notebooks, and ephemera. Some choice examples are:

Edward Gorey's own personal copies of many of his books.

Pen and ink drawing for cover of Andre Gide's Lafcadio's Adventures. Signed and dated 20/1/53, suggesting it was the first completed work Mr. Gorey created for Doubleday Anchor.

Drawing in pen and ink, with watercolor self-portrait with floating cats.

Four pen and ink with wash drawings of characters appearing in Mystery! animations.

Drawing in pen and ink, with watercolor for cover art on New Yorker magazine's December 21, 1992 issue.

Two pen and ink drawings for front and back cover of T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Pen and ink drawing of The Doubtful Guest.

Hand made Doubtful Guest doll, number 39 of 50, and signed by Mr. Gorey.

Three pen and ink drawings for The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

One typescript page for The Gashlycrumb Tinies (A is for Amy...), with holographic notes and a tentative title crossed out and published title inserted.

Prodigy to Polymath, special collections room

Three of Mr. Gorey's working notebooks from the 1970's through the 1990's.

Rough ink sketches of front and back cover art for The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Pen and ink drawing for Sarah Caldwell's The Sibyl in Her Grave dust jacket.

Holographic postcard from Mr. Gorey to Andreas Brown with unpublished Thoughtful Alphabet: Always Be Circumspect dated December 5, 1995.

Drawing in pen and ink, with watercolor of illustrated quotation by John Locke.

Drawings in pen and ink for Peter Neumeyer's Donald and the... and Donald Has a Difficulty.

Complete set of pen and ink drawings for The Pious Infant.

Drawings in pen and ink, with watercolor of characters from Carnegie Mellon's 1983 production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado.

Prodigy to Polymath, Mikado illustrations

and much, much more. Be sure a trip to the Special Collections room is made to examine Mr. Gorey's fascinating notebooks and other original works of art.

Unlike the Phantasmagorey exhibit, there is no published catalog of exhibited items to take home. Which is unfortunate, as this retrospective is billed as the largest public exhibition of Edward Gorey's work to date. I hope one eventually appears, with illustrations and photographs, as this exhibit wends its way to other venues. It would be the icing on a very restorative piece of cake. 'From Prodigy to Polymath' is truly an inspiration for any Gorey devotee, both fresh and jaded alike.

Glen Emil,
March 22, 2004

Excerpts from the SDSU press release follows:

For immediate release:


From whimsical cats to hapless children to Edwardian landscapes fraught with peril, the late writer/illustrator Edward Gorey created a body of work and a world like no other. His distinctive crosshatched line drawings are easily recognizable in the more than 100 books he illustrated, as well as the animated introduction to the PBS Mystery series.

An extensive retrospective of Gorey's work will be on display at the San Diego State University Library and Information Access in an exhibit titled From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey. The exhibit will be held in the library's Donor Hall from March 8 to May 31 and is free and open to the public.

Prodigy to Polymath, special collections room

The SDSU Library's Special Collections and University Archives Department has a strong core collection of Gorey's works, most of which was donated by SDSU alumnus Andreas Brown. As the owner of the Gotham Book Mart & Gallery in New York City, Brown exhibited Gorey's work and occasionally arranged joint publishing projects with the illustrator. He served as a co-executor of the Gorey estate and now is a co-trustee of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust.

Brown describes the upcoming Gorey exhibit at the SDSU Library as "the largest public exhibit that's ever been held of Edward Gorey's work". It will span Gorey's entire life, from his earliest published works in school publications through appearances in Harvard's student publications and local theatre events. In addition to the works on display that are owned by the SDSU Library, Brown has obtained permission from the Gorey estate to borrow materials from Gorey's private archives for the exhibit. Many of these materials even dedicated Gorey enthusiasts have never seen--sketch books, working notebooks, annotated manuscripts, rough sketches, original finished drawings, unpublished drawings, Gorey's personal copies of his rarest publications, photographs and other ephemera.

In addition, Peter Neumeyer, SDSU emeritus professor of English and Comparative Literature and a noted children's book author, also will be loaning materials to the exhibit that have never before been on display. Gorey illustrated three of Neumeyer's books--Donald and the..., Donald Has a Difficulty, and Why We Have Day and Night--and Neumeyer retained the correspondence they shared, as well as the elaborately hand-decorated envelopes Gorey created to mail his letters. "So much of our work was done by mail. I would always wait expectantly for these letters because most were enclosed in beautiful, Gorey-esquely painted envelopes," Neumeyer said.

"Institutions and museums that have put on Gorey exhibits in the past have always had space restrictions or they've wanted to focus strictly on the children's books or on book design. We're going to have a pretty wide spectrum of everything," Brown said of the SDSU exhibit. "There's going to be things that are fun to see and unusual items that have never been exhibited anywhere because they turned up at his estate after he died."

For more information about the Edward Gorey exhibit, please call Roberta Niederjohn at (619) 594-4991 or Special Collections at (619) 594-6791; for information about the Brown/Neumeyer presentation, contact Roberta Niederjohn at (619) 594-4991.The SDSU Library is located on the SDSU campus at 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA.

Special thanks to Cristina Favretto, Roberta Niederjohn, Mark Lester and Lyn Olsson for their kind assistance.

©1997-2004 Goreyography. All rights reserved. Photographs by Glen Emil. Images used by permission.