Collectors on Collecting: Sam Speigel on Collecting Edward Gorey

On May 7, Swann will auction The Edward Gorey Collection of Samuel Speigel, and the catalogue for that sale opens with this charming recollection from Speigel himself:

Lot 241: The Raging Tide: or, The Black Doll’s Imbroglio, with a black cloth stuffed Figbash doll, 1987


Collecting Edward Gorey reminds me of those iconic mystery images of dark and secretive Victorian characters searching with flashlights, but for what? A fleeting glimpse of some. . . thing, a half-seen tail or claw while the creature itself remains immutably unknowable. 

Lot 195: The Doubtful Guest, first edition, 1957.


As with most Gorey collectors, my experience began at Gotham Book Mart on West 47th street in NYC, with the purchase of a simple book, likely The Doubtful Guest or The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but before I could say “Figbash,” I was drawn into the magically never-ending array of Edward Gorey books, prints, etchings, creatures, posters, ephemera and original art.

Lot 214: The Gashlycrumb Tinies, postcard set, 1979


My search led me from New York City to San Francisco; from the unlikely plains of North Dakota to the resting place of Athelstan in England; from bookstores both proper and seedy to clandestine meetings with sellers in dimly lit bars and, once, to a bus stop in Hyannis where I furtively exchanged cash for a Figbash doll with a mysterious veiled lady. Sometimes I groaned in the agony of eBay defeat: more often, like Indiana Jones discovering the Ark of the Covenant, I rejoiced in triumph as I discovered one of the rarest of the rare, a hand-sewn silver salamander. Whenever I had a difficult purchase decision, I followed the good advice of Messrs. Shawn and Gorey. 

Lot 302: Elephantômas, set of nine monoprints in Arches paper, 1986.


Now if anyone takes this seriously, one hasn’t been reading, enjoying and understanding Gorey. Eventually my collection became so overwhelming that I decided to share some (not all) with those collectors who have desire and ready cash. My thanks to those that helped me along the way.

Lot 306: Bibliophile with Cats, color lithograph produced by Gotham Book Mart, 1996.

More material from the Speigel Collection will be offered in our October 1 auction of Art, Press & Illustrated Books.