Auctions | June 18, 2015

<i>The Great Gatsby</i>, Inscribed by Fitzgerald, Doubles Estimate at Bonhams


New York—A copy of The Great Gatsby inscribed by its author F. Scott Fitzgerald was the top selling lot at Bonhams’ Voices of the 20th Century sale on June 16. It realized $191,000, against an estimate of $80,000-100,000. The book is a 1925 first edition given by Fitzgerald to fellow author Harold Goldman and inscribed for “the original Gatsby.”

Fitzgerald has written in his own hand:

“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)”

The inscribed book was given to Goldman presumably during their shared stint at MGM as screenwriters. The two men worked together in the 1930s on the film A Yank at Oxford starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh. According to family history, the two knew each other well, but aside from two inscribed books, Goldman and Fitzgerald’s friendship appears previously undocumented. As is clear from his inscription, Fitzgerald disliked his time in Hollywood. “Cell Block 17” seems to be a reference to his office in the writers’ building and “Alcatraz” to the MGM lot.

A member of the Goldman family stated, “Harold Goldman was a wonderful writer in his own right, and we are very pleased that his friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald has received this validation through the sale of the first edition Gatsby which was inscribed to him so many years ago.”

Other highlights from the auction include:

  • A copy of the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung that fetched $68,750, racing past the high estimate of $30,000. Out of an estimated 5 billion printed copies of the Little Red Book, only a handful were actually signed by Mao himself.   
  • An autograph musical manuscript signed by the Jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) that achieved $20,000, well over its high estimate of $8,000.  The manuscript titled, “Monk’s Mood,” features on one side and changes for “The Things We Did” are found on the verso. The manuscript was likely written during the second recording of “Monk’s Mood” in 1957, which was also right about the time Monk had finally come to public prominence. 
  • The first home pregnancy test prototype “Original Predictor” invented by Margaret Crane in 1968 that sold for $11,875. Despite considerable debate, the home pregnancy test was one of the most revolutionary products of the 20th century and its invention was a key moment in the history of women’s liberation.