News | May 9, 2013

The Great Gatsby Dust Jacket: The Most Valuable Piece of Paper in Modern Literature


With the upcoming release of Baz Luhrmann’s opulent new adaptation, collectors around the world are on alert for the emergence of examples of the very rare and desirable dust jacket of the first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, The Great Gatsby.

Sometimes called the most expensive bit of paper in modern literature, the dust jacket can add more than £100,000 to the value of the book itself.

The average price for a 1925 first edition in good condition without the dust jacket is at around £5,000-£7,000 whereas with the dust jacket the book is worth over £120,000.

Renowned rare bookseller Peter Harrington is expecting some interest in an example they have in their shop on Chelsea’s Fulham Road.

The copy is an excellent example of the famous dust jacket designed by Francis Cugat (1893-1981) featuring an iconic interpretation of America’s roaring Twenties.

Charles Scribner III (“Celestial Eyes - from Metamorphosis to Masterpiece”) argues that not only is the jacket recognised as the most eloquent in American literary history, but that Cugat’s artwork demonstrably had an effect on Fitzgerald’s evolution of his literary masterpiece, as the author responded to sketches and artwork shown to him before the book was complete, a perhaps unique occurrence in literary history.

Fitzgerald wrote to his publisher sometime in August 1924 from France: “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.”

Although artistically superb, the jacket included a misprint on the back panel that required hand-correction (lowercase “j” in “jay Gatsby” on the back at line 14 corrected by the publisher), it was also left a little taller than the book itself. As a consequence almost all of the small number of examples that do survive have wear of some description at the edges.

Perhaps these flaws are another part of their allure. Like the stolen clothes of Gatsby himself, it seems right that these beautiful and expensive jackets are an uneasy fit.                                     

About Peter Harrington:

Peter Harrington, founded in 1969, is the number one rare book shop in Britain and among the top five rare booksellers in the world. We sell the finest printed books and first editions from the 15th century onwards. In addition, we incorporate a gallery offering works on paper and The Chelsea Bindery, specialising in hand-crafted luxury leather bindings.

We take a fresh approach to the traditional fusty old book shop. Our display mixes everything from 15th-century bibles to hypermodern first editions, from Gutenberg to J. K. Rowling.

Our gallery sells prints, modern and contemporary art, antique maps, views, photography and original artworks. The artists on display include Bridget Riley, Tracy Emin, Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, L.S. Lowry, Andy Warhol, Takashi Murakami and many more. 

Peter Harrington
100 Fulham Road
London SW3 6HS

Tel +44 (0)20 7591 0220
Fax +44 (0)20 7225 7054

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