A first edition of "The Great Gatsby" is being auctioned Tuesday at Sotheby's in New York. The classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald is expected to sell for $100,000 to $150,000.
When "The Great Gatsby" was first published in 1925, its dust jacket featured the now-iconic cover art by Francis Cugat, with two eyes, a teardrop, and the bright lights of the city below. The copy for sale includes the dust jacket, although it is somewhat battered.
According to legend, and quite unusually, the classic cover became part of the text of the book. Covers are almost always designed after a book is finished, but Fitzgerald was late with his manuscript and had a conversation with Cugat about the story. Fitzgerald, concerned that the gouache by Cugat might be used on another book, wrote a letter to his editor, Max Perkins. “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”
What Fitzgerald meant, exactly, is a matter of conjecture, but most believe the looming eyes of Cugat's illustration were worked into the text and morphed into the all-seeing billboard of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, oculist.
The copy being auctioned Tuesday was owned by literary critic Malcolm Cowley. It was a well-used book; in 1952, Cowley wrote in Fitzgerald's corrections to the book in pen. "He wanted to add Gertrude Stein's name to dedication," one note reads. The published dedication was, "Once Again, to Zelda."
With Cowley's edits, says Sotheby's head of books Richard Austin, this particular book is the "closest anyone's going to be able to get to actually owning Fitzgerald's own copy." That copy is in his papers at the Princeton Library.
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