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Gorey's Ephemera

The artist and writer Edward Gorey crafted ominous but playful worlds full of suspicion and languor. Perhaps best known for his animated title sequence for PBS’s Mystery! series, in which elegant party guests mingle as a corpse sinks quietly into a pond, he also published short, gothic-tinged picture books for adults, with titles like The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Unstrung Harp, and The Doubtful Guest.

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Cat with Christmas muffler, c. 1973, Edward Gorey Courtesy of The Record and The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust, see a selection of Gorey's work
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Andrew Alpern '64ARCH, an architectural historian and attorney, recently donated his personal collection of approximately 700 Gorey works to Columbia. Alpern accumulated much of his collection at the same shop that helped Gorey launch his career: Gotham Book Mart, in Manhattan. Alpern and Gorey met at the shop and in 1980 collaborated on a project that Gorey named F.M.R.A. (say it aloud): a boxed set of loose printed drawings and lettering on various sorts and sizes of paper. One copy comes to Columbia as part of Alpern’s gift, along with nearly every edition of every work Gorey published, plus illustrations for book covers and magazines, original drawings, etchings, posters, and printed ephemera.

“There is so much substance in what superficially seems like some very strange words and some very strange pictures,” says Alpern. “You read the little book one time, and then you go back a few months later and it’s different. That’s the mark of really good stuff.”

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