In the News

The Yale Center for British Art Expands Its Collection of Modern and Contemporary British Photographs

New Haven, CT—The Yale Center for British Art has expanded its collection of photographs... read more

Gouache on Paper of Iconic Apple Logo Attributed to Andy Warhol Headlines February 1 Sale

Franklin, MA — A mid-1980s gouache on paper rendering of the iconic Apple Macintosh... read more

The Library of Milanese Collector Sergio Rossetti Headed to Sotheby’s Milan on February 20

On February 20th 2018, Sotheby’s Milan will offer up for sale the library of... read more

Gift of Over 650 Works from Frederic A. Sharf Caps Legacy of Wolfsonian Support

Miami Beach, FL— The Wolfsonian-Florida International University today announced a significant gift of more... read more

Huntington's Spring Exhibition will Focus on Rare 19th-Century Astronomical Prints

San Marino, CA - A rare set of exquisite lithographs, depicting the pastel drawings... read more

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books Presents Highlights for TEFAF Maastricht 2018

Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books AG returns to TEFAF Maastricht (10-18 March 2018) with... read more

Signed Books & Children's Books at National Book Auctions

Ithaca, NY—National Book Auctions, located in Ithaca, NY, announces the launch of their next... read more

Heritage Auctions' Animation Art Department Breaks Record With 2017 Sales Of $3.9 Million

Dallas, TX- Thanks to two stellar signature animation art auctions and another exceptional event... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 Bookseller Resource Guide

Great Scott!

Collectors Throw Money at F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ben Franklin

The Eyes Have It

The Great Gatsby, Bonhams New York, $182,000

A copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best known novel set a new auction record at Bonhams New York on June 10. Widely regarded as his most perfectly realized work, The Great Gatsby was published in New York in 1925. “I think my novel is about the best American novel ever written,” Fitzgerald bragged to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner’s, before publication.

Fitzgerald was equally forthright about Francis Cugat’s now iconic jacket design: “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.” He may have been referring to the passage about “the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg” that stare out from a roadside billboard, or to Nick Caraway’s statement, “Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs…” The eyes on Cugat’s jacket, however, are generally supposed to be those of Daisy Buchanan, and close examination of his artwork shows her pupils to be stylized reclining nudes.

For all that it was admired by leading literary figures, the book’s initial sales barely covered Fitzgerald’s advance, and most copies of the second printing were still in the Scribner’s warehouse when he died, his work almost forgotten, in 1940.

How very different things are today! This copy, from the M.B. Goldstone collection, shows some chipping and other wear, but it has all the issue points of a first printing and a jacket in the original state, with a lowercase j in Jay Gatsby’s name on the rear panel, corrected by hand.

Previous auction records include the $153,600 paid at Sotheby’s New York in 2004 for a very special copy from Maurice Neville’s collection. The jacket on that copy was from the corrected second printing, but it was inscribed by the author—and at a time when his books were mostly out of print, magazines no longer bought his stories and his Hollywood screenwriting career had come to a drunken end. Addressed to “Tat” Brown, Dean of Haverford College in Philadelphia and a noted collector, the book was poignantly inscribed “from one who is flattered at being remembered, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hollywood, 1939.”

Rich Richard

Ben Franklin’s Almanack, Sotheby’s New York, $566,500

The principles of thrift espoused by the young Benjamin Franklin were more evident in the way Sotheby’s presented a rare copy of Poor Richard’s Almanack, than in the stratospheric bidding this historic little book produced. Just one little page from Sotheby’s new, environmentally-friendly mini-catalog was allocated to the sale of this copy, one of only three recorded copies of the first Poor Richard almanac.

In later life, the successful and prosperous Franklin found himself able to reconcile his reputation as the “Apostle of Thrift” with a very different lifestyle and the purchaser certainly ignored one of Franklin’s later Poor Richard aphorisms, “Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessities.” As Lauren Weber wrote in a piece on the sale for the Philadelphia Enquirer, Franklin himself would probably have enjoyed the irony of one of his poor almanacs selling for more than half a million dollars!

Franklin began writing his own almanacs, pseudonymously, when his printing shop lost the contracts for the printing of two others to a rival. Characterised by a mix of humour and pragmatic advice, much of it contained in the proverbs and aphorisms with which he sprinkled the text, the almanacs proved a huge success and as the title page illustration indicates, the first went into three impressions. An unfortunate transposition of the months September and October occasioned a second printing, while public demand brought the need for a third.

The signature of a previous owner, the charmingly named Polly Custards, appears on the title page, but this great rarity was only recently discovered in the collections of the Berwick (Pennsylvania) Historical Society. As befits their origin, the only other survivors are already housed in Philadelphia—a corrected first issue in the Rosenbach Museum & Library and another copy of the third impression with The Library Company.

Page 1 | 2 | 3 | Next