Friday, June 1, 2012

BiblioFile: eReads Artwork

Johnny Dixon and Edward Gorey will always be connected because of John Bellairs’s three series of young-adult adventures, only one had the same artist for the entire run of American hardcover editions. The Barnavelt series has had five different illustrators and there were two for the Monday series, but Gorey created the wraparound dust-jacket art for all twelve Johnny Dixon books published between 1983 and 1999. Because of that there is a certain consistency to their look when the novels are displayed end-to-end. (Some people do that, we’re told.)

There’s also a certain consistency to the eReads editions of the Johnny Dixon series that saw their initial release last year. The first eight books written by John were released in 2011 and the remaining four that had input from Brad Strickland saw the light of day earlier this year. Again, the covers have a similar layout – different colors and designs but clearly eye-catching and part of the same series.

Therefore this question was bound to be asked and it recently popped up at our forum: do the e-book editions feature Edward Gorey’s artwork. That doesn’t just mean the book covers but the interior artwork that Gorey provided on occasion as well. From what we’ve seen the answer is no.

It’s a good question because Gorey’s interior illustrations are sometimes crucial to the story. And we’re not talking frontispieces, either, though those are always a plus. 

Sure, any kid with a good imagination can visualize their own letter L wrapped in twisted vines but if you’re discussing a rebus then you oughta good ahead and show’s a rebus for crying out loud! By definition it’s supposed to be a picture!  So such an image appears in the ebook edition of The Spell of the Sorcerer’s Skull (top right) but it’s clearly not the one Gorey drew back in 1984 (above left).

One other thing about the Dixon series is that the characters are primarily on the road: the White Mountains, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, England, and so on. You don’t necessarily need a map to know where Johnny is going over the course of that book’s adventure, although in The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt Johnny has to use a map to maneuver the Staunton Harold estate up in New Hampshire. And to let the reader in on the fun Gorey created a map of the grotesque grounds. It’s there in the 1983 edition by Dial (bottom left) and something not entirely unlike Gorey’s map appeared in the recent eReads edition, too (above right). We miss the compass rose in the revised version.  We miss frontispieces, too, but what can you do?

So what's your take? We’ll discuss some more artwork in a later post. Happy eReading!

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