First edition, first issue of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a landmark of 20th century fiction. This haunting tale of "empty elegance and impossible love" in the opulent age of American Jazz is considered by many to be the greatest American novel of the 20th century.
In 1922, having already written This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned, Fitzgerald told his publisher Max Perkins, "I want to write something new—something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned" (Bruccoli, 198). The triumphant result three years later was The Great Gatsby, published in 1925. Set in New York City and Long Island during the Roaring Twenties, the focus of the story is its title character, Jay Gatsby, and his unswerving desire to be reunited with Daisy Buchanan, the love he lost five years earlier. Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and Daisy’s cousin, narrates Gatsby's journey from poverty to wealth, into the arms of his beloved, and eventually to death.
The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly one of the greatest American literary documents of the 1920s, the decade for which Fitzgerald himself coined the term “Jazz Age.” However, in writing the book, Fitzgerald was in fact holding up a mirror to the society of which he was a part. In true Modernist fashion, The Great Gatsby addresses the social issues of the period — namely materialism and displaced spirituality — that ultimately led to the decline of the era.
The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as Fitzgerald's masterpiece, though the original sales were very disappointing in comparison to his earlier bestsellers. The work barely paid back his advance from his publisher Charles Scribner's Sons. The first printing of 20,870 copies eventually sold, and Scribner's printed only 3,000 more. When Fitzgerald died fifteen years later, there were still copies of that second printing on warehouse shelves.
Undeterred, Fitzgerald himself was clear on his feelings of its merits, "I think my novel is about the best American novel ever written" (Letters p. 166). Noted critic Cyril Connolly called The Great Gatsby one of the half dozen best American novels: "[Gatsby] remains a prose poem of delight and sadness which has by now introduced two generations to the romance of America, as Huckleberry Finn and Leaves of Grass introduced those before it" (The Modern Movement, 48). NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan declared, "The Great Gatsby is one of the first modern novels to look squarely at the void, yet it stops short of taking a flying leap… It's Fitzgerald's thin-but-durable urge to affirm that finally makes Gatsby worthy of being our Great American Novel" (Corrigan, 23).
The Great Gatsby gained great popularity during WWII and the mainstream and critics began to embrace the author’s work. Today, The Great Gatsby has sold over 25 million copies worldwide, sells an estimated additional 500,000 copies annually, and is Scribner's most popular title. Ranked #2 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century, the novel is also listed on their Top 100 Novels as well as The Observer’s All-Time 100 Best Novels and Time Magazine’s 100 Best Modern Novels. It was the basis for numerous stage and film adaptations. Gatsby had four film adaptations, with two exceptionally big-budget versions: the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, as well as Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carrie Mulligan.
Published in New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925. First printing, with Scribner’s seal, with “chatter” on p.60, “northern” p.119, “sick in tired” p.205, “Union Street station” p. 211, and all other first-issue points.
Book is bound in beautiful full calf leather with decorative gilt throughout the spine and boards. Housed in a matching quarter leather and cloth clamshell. The front of the clamshell features a reprinting of the original first edition slipcover design, which is among the most celebrated in American literature. Artist Francis Cugat’s design depicts disembodied eyes and a mouth over a blue skyline with images of naked women reflected in the irises. It has been said that Fitzgerald so loved the artwork, which was completed before the book, that he rewrote parts of the book to better incorporate it.