Tuesday, February 5, 2013

BiblioFile: The House with a Clock in its Walls (UK)

A mere five years after The House with a Clock in its Walls was published in the United States it was unleashed in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson and Company, the first of three Bellairs titles so released. This would be the first of six Bellairs titles that would surface "across the pond" between 1978 and 1987.

Reading that this edition’s cover art was by Edward Gorey doesn’t really sink in at first: so was the American’s edition – no big deal. It’s not until you see the cover do you realize that Hutchinson went all out on this one and took the black-and-white frontispiece from the edition published by Dial, colorized it, and then set it off within an oval frame on a field of black.

There are around fifteen different windows on the house – from the front door to the top of the house and the fourth floor circular cupola window – and all have been lit with vibrant yellow. Someone with a green fluorescent marker tinted the leafy shrubs and trees surrounding the house as well as the oval frame, returning briefly to the yellow to smudge the crescent moon in the sky.  Maybe it's Mrs.Zimmermann's looming presence in the story or, more likely, the American edition by Dial but we always associate purple with this book.

It’s a nice affect but not the sort of thing we’re used to seeing associated with Gorey’s pen-and-ink illustrations and we’re curious how often this sort of thing happens to his artwork. Has someone added color to the twenty-six plates to heighten the deaths in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, too? We’ve heard of hobbies where people add color to old black-and-white photographs but it seems just as sacrilege as the colorized version of Casablanca (and yes, such a thing exists).

Someone in one of our discussion groups once mentioned the font and layout of the book’s titles reminded them of an episode of The Waltons. Go figure.

One unique thing about this edition is that its back cover is a black-and-white still from the then-recent Children's Film Foundation project, The Battle of Billy's Pond, and serves as a promotion for its novelization. Screenonline.org.uk says the plot of this 1976 production has the “usual high-jinks and slapstick expected of a Children's Film Foundation production” but is a bit more serious in tone as two young boys investigate industrial waste polluting of their favorite fishing pond.

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