The Great Gatsby (First Edition) by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a novel by American Author F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). The first edition of this work was published in 1925 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Background
Fitzgerald deliberately moved away from previous writing styles for this novel, attempting to create something more artistic and meaningful. The settings and people are partly taken from Fitzgerald’s own experiences living in Long Island, particularly figures of ‘new money’.
The book was written between 1922 and 1925, with numerous revisions. It was published during the height of the Prohibition era, when alcohol was being smuggled into America.
The dust jacket design for the first edition is one of the most revered pieces of American literary jacket art. The design was by an obscure artist named Francis Cugat. The illustration was created before the novel was finished, and Fitzgerald loved it so much that he claimed to have ‘written it into’ the novel. Allegedly he later changed his mind and disliked it.
The book is considered by many to be the archetype of the Great American Novel, despite the fact that the two printings of the first editions did not even sell out for many years. At the time of Gatsby’s death, he was largely forgotten, until the Armed Services Editions gave 150,000 copies of The Great Gatsby to the American military during World War II.
Plot, Characters, Themes
The story takes place on Long Island’s North Shore and in New York City, during the prosperous era of the roaring 1920s. The economy is doing very well after recovering from the First World War, and Prohibition is becoming widespread.
It describes the experiences of Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and World War One soldier who returns home to begin a career. He rents a house next to the Gatsby of the title, who hosts outrageous and extravagant parties. They live in West Egg, an area full of new money. The protagonist has acquaintances in the old money sophisticated area of East Egg, and much of the novel is taken up with describing the differences between them, and revealing the hidden connections between the outwardly more refined world of East Egg, and the more honestly seedy world of West Egg.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest 20th century American writers. He wrote four novels, and another was left unfinished, and many short story collections.
Notable auction sales and collecting tips
As this is considered by many the Great American Novel, first editions are extremely collectible. There were two runs of the first edition, so it is necessary to check whether a copy is a first or second issue. First edition copies are much more valuable when they retain they original dust jackets, especially as this particular jacket design is so significant to this novel and to American literature.
Sothebys New York sold a first edition (1925) for $153,600 in April 2004. Heritage Auctions Sold a first edition for $57,500 in June 2008. Christie’s sold signed first edition copies for $58,750 in May 2001, $63,000 in October 1995, and $163,500 in October 2002.
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