An Inscribed First Edition of The Great Gatsby on Offer at Bonhams

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New York—A copy of The Great Gatsby inscribed by its author F. Scott Fitzgerald leads Bonhams' Voices of the 20th Century auction on June 16 in New York. The book is a 1925 first edition given by Fitzgerald to fellow author Harold Goldman—the inspiration for the novel’s leading character, Jay Gatsby. It is estimated at $80,000-100,000.

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 by the author presumably during their shared stint at MGM as screenwriters. The two men worked together in the 1930s on the 1938 film A Yank at Oxford starring Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh. According to family history, the two knew each other well but aside from this inscribed book, Goldman and Fitzgerald’s friendship is mostly undocumented. As is clear from his inscription, Fitzgerald disliked his time in Hollywood. “Cell Block 17” would be a reference to his office in the writers’ building and “Alcatraz” to the MGM lot.

Jay Gatsby embodied the American dream with his rags-to-riches success story. The present volume with Fitzgerald’s note and signature is the most desirable Bonhams has ever seen at auction.

Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts at Bonhams, Christina Geiger, commented, “It is very exciting to be offering this copy of The Great Gatsby, which has been consigned to Bonhams by the family of the original recipient. One of the special characteristics of the Voices of the 20th Century auction is the large number of items that are consigned directly by the original owners or their families.”

Other exceptional highlights in the sale include:

•      A 1924 first edition of A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young (est. $10,000 - 15,000), the first of the Winnie-the-Pooh books. This copy is accompanied by autograph letters signed by both the author and his son and muse, Christopher Robin Milne. Christopher Robin was only 4 1/2 years old when he wrote this letter and signed himself “Billy Moon.”

•      A rare personal letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. from the Albany City, Georgia jail in August of 1962, consigned by the family of the original recipient and estimated at $25,000 - 35,000.

•      Felix De Weldon’s personal 1963 maquette bust of John F. Kennedy, made in the final months before the assassination ($200,000-300,000). De Weldon is best known as the creator of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial depicting the historic raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima. His portrait of JFK eventually became a key feature in the Kennedy library. Another of the four castings made was given to Mrs. John F. Kennedy.

The auction will be held at 1pm. To view the online catalog, click here.

Left image: Scott F. Fitzgerald (1896-1940). The Great Gatsby, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925. Est. $80,000-100,000.

Right image: Harold Goldman, photograph courtesy of the Goldman family.

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