Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Murder, mayhem and extraordinary price tags

A double dose of ‘The Great Gatsby’


Last night, I attended a talk by Dr Sarah Churchwell, author of Careless People. Today, I listened to a talk by Adam Douglas of antiquarian book dealers Peter Harrington on the final day of Masterpiece 2013 about her very subject.


The copy of 'The Great Gatsby' for sale with Peter Harrington for £120,000
The copy of ‘The Great Gatsby’ for sale with Peter Harrington for £120,000

'Careless People' by Dr Sarah Churchwell
‘Careless People’ by Dr Sarah Churchwellat gatsby


Churchwell enthusiastically told the assembled audience at The English Speaking Union about her research into the background of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Murder, mayhem and mystery were her guiding forces and equally fascinating was Douglas’ brief speech today about a rare first edition of this classic novel.


Priced at £120,000, the copy described was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1925 as part of a print run of some 18,000. Few survive but what makes this copy especially valuable is that it comes complete with the original dust jacket. Few survive as, as Douglas described, most were thrown away at the point of sale. Equally, as the jacket and book were printed separately and were differently sized, there is a degree of chipping to the jacket.


Nonetheless, this represents a remarkable piece of literary history. As Fitzgerald himself said of the cover:


“For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book”.



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