I recently retrieved all three of my Amphigoreys from storage and in poring over them page by page, I have been struck once again by his hand-lettering. Here, a selection of his titles and lettering (Romans, tuscans, rustics!). Directly above are three of his book jackets from the 1950s from a good selection found here. All the text is obsessively– ingeniously– hand-lettered. (I had never been quite sure and used to study and compare "s"s or "n"s.)
I got the first Amphigorey collection when I was about 10 years old and it made such an impression– I loved it so much– I didn't know what to do with myself. Has anyone else ever had this? When there is something that leaves you so awe-struck, so full of wonder– something that feels so perfect in every respect, so exactly what you, yourself, would want to do if only you could–that you want to live in it, be it. I was wholly enveloped by the flamboyant peculiarity, the play of image and word, the morbid density (see horror vacui) followed by a radical graphic spareness. And of course there was Gorey's consummate parceling of story, line by line, epigrammatic, often non sequitur, that was particularly appealing to me. Much later I learned that Gorey modeled his visual style, somewhat, on 19th century engravings (though his characters appear to drift perpetually in a 30 year time period roughly between 1890s high Victorian through Edwardian and occasionally showing up in Flapper regalia). His prose style somehow conflated the portentous air of 19th century schoolbooks and comically bleak children's religious instruction primers with a sly voluptuary's wit.
I find myself still not quite sure how to process my emotional mix of envy and worship.