On June 16 a first edition of The Great Gatsby inscribed by F. Scott Fitzgerald leads Bonhams’ “Voices of the 20th Century” auction.
Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is among the most adored novels in American literature. Fitzgerald gave this volume—estimated at $80,000 to $100,000—to close friend and fellow author Harold Goldman, one of the inspirations for Jay Gatsby himself. The handwritten note reads, “For Harold Goldman/The original ‘Gatsby’ of this story, with thanks for letting me reveal these secrets of his past/Alcatraz/Cell Block 17/I’ll be out soon, kid. Remember me to the mob. Fitzgerald).”
After the commercial success of This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922), 27-year-old Fitzgerald set to work on his third novel, which Edwin Clark of The New York Times called “a curious book, a mystical, glamourous story of today.” Yet Gatsby didn’t sell, and by the early 1930s, it was difficult to find a copy in bookstores. Around that time, Fitzgerald’s life began to fall apart. Serious bouts of alcoholism erupted into heated arguments with family and close friends, including Fitzgerald's editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins.
The Great Gatsby eventually became a wild success, but not until after Fitzgerald's untimely death in 1940 at the age of 44. Today it is considered by many to be the quintessential American novel and has been adapted seven times for the big screen, perhaps most famously by Baz Luhrmann.