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Doubleday, Anchor Books, and Edward Gorey

After graduation from Harvard in 1950 Gorey devoted his energies to The Poets’ Theatre at Harvard and working in local Cambridge book stores. In early 1953, he moved to New York City to take a position in the Art Department at Doubleday & Company.

How did you become a book cover designer of Anchor/Doubleday?

I knew editors Barbara Zimmerman and Jason Epstein from my days at Harvard, and both of them were working at Doubleday.  I visited New York just before Christmas 1952, when they were starting Anchor Books.  I did some freelance covers for them.  Then they offered me a job, which at first I turned down because I didn’t want to live in New York.  So much for that.  I realized that I was starving to death in Boston, and took the job in 1953.  “Edward Gorey’s Cover Story.”  Steven Heller, The National Post (Toronto), Wednesday, January 6, 1999. AP, p.232.

Were you the art director of Anchor/Doubleday?

No, I took a job in the art department, mostly doing paste-ups.  It wasn’t too difficult really.  In fact, when I saw some of the paste-ups that other people did, I thought, really are all thumbs, these well-known artists.”  I never had much patience with having to re-do other people’s paste-ups, which looked like they just flung the letters on the page. .  “Edward Gorey’s Cover Story.”  Steven Heller, The National Post (Toronto), Wednesday, January 6, 1999. AP, p.233.

In printing a paste-up is an assembly of typeset matter, illustrations, etc. for photographing prior to the making of a printing plate.  Gorey was apparently very good at this as well as quick.

“Doubleday was a pleasant place to work, though I didn’t have any great respect for it.  I was fast and competent at what I was doing, as opposed to some people in the editorial department, who were scatterbrained to the point of lunacy, so I wrote a lot of my own books at Doubleday.  I began with The Unstrung Harp, which I thought was a neat trick.  I had never written a book before, and it was all about writing which I didn’t know anything about.” Richard Dyer, “The Poison Penman”.  Boston Globe Magazine, April 1, 1984.  AP, p. 118.

 “He was on the drawing boards,” recalls art director Diana Klemin, “fixing mechanicals [for freelancers like Leonard Baskin and Ben Shahn]”, doing paste-ups and designing jackets.  He was just right for Anchor Books, especially for Proust and Conrad.”  Carol Stevens.  “An American Original”  Print, January/February 1988.  AP,  p. 129-130.

However, one of Gorey’s earliest assignments for Doubleday included doing the typography for the covers of Doubleday Short Studies in Political Science and other series in the social sciences which began publication in 1954.  While the covers for these publications were not signed, an examination of more than 30 publications in the political science, psychology, and sociology series suggests that the typography was indeed Gorey’s. Andreas Brown has also examined these covers and agrees that the typography is Gorey’s.  These studies were published in a fixed format and size with only the title and author of the work on the covers changed.  As an undergraduate at Loyola and a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I [Thomas Michalak] had many of these publications assigned as collateral reading for political science courses. 

Gorey also did jacket covers and designs for fiction, mystery, and general books published by Doubleday in his first years in the art department.