08 July 2008

Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell, 1936

Margaret Mitchell. GONE WITH THE WIND. Macmillan, NY 1936.

Current Selling Prices
$5000-$8000 / £2500-£4500

Classic Southern Civil War novel well filmed with the fabled Gable and our own svelte Vivien Leigh. Oscars all round. This is what the correct first looks like (from a dealer's catalog) " Black cloth-backed gray patterned boards, spine lettered in gilt, with the red endpapers, and red topstain (ie to the top fore edge of the book) in first issue jacket, without the phrase, "Complete Unexpurgated Edition" printed, which is found on the front panel of later issues, and with the original price of $3.00 intact, listed in the bottom corner of the inside front flap . First Printing of the First Edition, First State/First issue with "Published May 1936" on copyright page, and in the First Issue dust jacket with rear panel headed "Macmillan Spring Novels" listing GWTW as the second title in the second column.' The novel above it should be Charles Morgan's forgotten and unsaleable novel 'Sparkenboke.' 10,000 were printed. The jacket can, of course, be price clipped -- but that means an expensive slice in the price. This emphasis on first/ first / first comes from the phenomenon (esp on ebay) of persons trying to sell reprints as first editions ('First edition, 17th printing' etc.,) When someone has the real thing they have to make it unequivocal-- even then they will get inquiries asking if it is really a first, or more annoyingly having described a really nice copy a buffer emails to ask if it's ex library. Infinite patience required.

VALUE? Amazing copies of this book have shown up, esp related to the movie--signed by the cast, with drawings by the designer, loosely inserted letters from Gable or David O. Selznick etc.,. A copy turned up in 1994 signed by 75 members of the cast and crew with 26 related photos- making close to $60,000 at Christies East. MM signed quite alot and her signature can add a grand or two. Hard to get a nice unsigned one in decent d/w for less than $5000 - except possibly in a poorly attended auction or a bookshop unused to highspots. In the 1970s decent copies were going for as little as $80. In 2005 a decent signed one in a fancy leather box topped $12000, another made $9000. Unsigned it doesn't appear to have gone much over $5k although a copy described as 'pristine' made $4500 as far back 1990. 'Pristine' is a word you don't use lightly.

Updating this entry from Feb 2007, a decentish jacketed copy with a letter from Clark Gable discussing his playing of Rhett Butler and his talk with Margaret Mitchell sits on ABE at $80K, probably valuing the letter at $70K, a price that must be taken with a pinch of salt. Decent copies seem to be $7500 or more, there are a lot of signed copies around often of reprints or in later states.

TRIVIA. The title comes from the poem 'Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae' by decadent poet Ernest Dowson. Dowson, a superb poet, is the ultimate doomed writer--decadent, drunken, and deperately in love with unattainable girls etc. The third stanza of the poem (usually known just as Cynara) reads:-
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind;
But I was desolate and sick of an old passion,
Yea, all the time, because the dance was long:
I have been faithful to thee, Cynara! in my fashion.
In MM's words, it was the "far away, faintly sad sound I wanted" for the title and she found it with the pale Dowson. Other books, songs and movies come from Dowson's verse. The last line above was the inspiration for the song title 'Always True to You in My Fashion' from 'Kiss Me, Kate' by Cole Porter. The phrase 'days of wine and roses' comes from his poem 'Vitae Summa Brevis':-
They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream. /
This inspired a movie, a soap opera and three smoochy songs ((Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, Dream Syndicate.) Fittingly the movie is about alcoholism. Potentially some of Dowson's own books are worth more that 'Gone With the Wind.' His 'Verses' (1896, one of thirty on vellum) made over $10000 25 years ago when Ms M's books was selling regularly for $100. Sic transit...
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