RARE BOOK GUIDE - THE RUNNERS, THE RIDERS & THE ODDS
31 January 2007
The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald.1925.
F. Scott Fitzgerald. THE GREAT GATSBY. Scribner's, NY 1925
Current Selling Prices
$120000-$180000 / £55000-£95000
MODERN FIRST EDITION
The summum bonum of mod firsts, in its famous jacket fabulously valuable - outranking Joyce, Hem, Faulkner, Beckett and even JK Rowling. A great work that ,as they say, tapped into the Zeitgeist, praised by H.L. Mencken, T.S. Eliot (who mentioned Scott in the same breath as 'The Master' i.e. Henry James.) It still sells 300,000 copies a year. This is a writer who was frequently broke and in Hollywood was shunned (they don't like lushes) and treated like a loser. To my mind a beautiful book with its unforgettable closing lines. There are points on the book but if you have the words 'sick in tired' at lines 9/10 on page 205 you are almost there. There are 5 other points including - at page 60 line 6 the word 'chatter'- should be there, Scott replaced in the second state with the word 'echolalia.' Odd move. At the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society's 1996 conference, co-sponsored by Princeton University a scholar gave a paper on the word 'echolalia' in Gatsby. They are still talking about it in New Jersey.
VALUE? Jacketless copies go for about $3000 in nice condition, possibly a bit more if they are noticeably fresh. It is possible that the seller currently offering a copy at $9000 sans d/w is 'having a laugh.' One hopes so. In auction it has made as much as $175,000 with a jacket. A copy in a restored jacket failed to reach its $60,000 reserve in 2002, often the fate of restored objects. The Neville copy in a frayed second state jacket made $145,000, however it was nicely inscribed. The point on the jacket, and it is one that is rarely invoked, is that the J in Jay Gatsby on the rear panel is lower case and was altered in ink (shades of the first Hobbit jacket.) It is worth quoting this auction catalogue description of it: 'The dust jacket on The Great Gatsby — a depiction of a woman’s face (Daisy’s) brooding over an amusement park version of New York at night — has achieved iconic status. The design by Francis Cugat (the brother, incidently, of bandleader Xavier Cugat) ...Fitzgerald (wrote) to Perkins, ‘For Christs sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.’ Trivia: I had an aunt who knew Xavier Cugat; did his brother get him a copy? [ W/Q **** ]
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I have heard that the "First Edition Library," which reprinted a number of classics in facsimile, reprinted the jackets on a few of their early books, including Gatsby, with no information that identified it as a fac. It would be interesting if anyone knew how "close" the FEL jacket is to the original, in terms of size, paper, etc. and if it is indeed unmarked - whether it could be mistaken for the real thing.
I think it could be but not to the point where serious money might be handed over. I have seen it and I think its the right size, the only problem is it looks too perfect and too modern ( I guess an ill intentioned seller might attempt to 'distress' it.) I think they did one for 'Mockingbird' and other classics ands it's a grey area. You do see these FELjackets on the original books but always (hopefully) declared as such. Without having the original and the FEL it is hard to pronounce definitively on this one. More input needed.
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