‘The Great Gatsby’ inspires nostalgia for the Jazz Age

First edition of ‘the great American novel’ expected to make $150,000 at New York rare-books auction


The latest film adaptation of the great 20th-century American novel might have disappointed some critics but a first edition of The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald is expected to sell for $150,000 (€114,364) at a Sotheby’s auction in New York on Tuesday.

Sotheby’s said the book “is now almost universally recognised as standing among the great achievements of 20th-century American literature with the tragic story of Jay Gatsby and, more broadly, the American dream, resonating with readers for generations”.

The “particularly important copy” which has the very rare, and, for collectors, all-important dust-jacket, once belonged to American critic and author, Malcolm Cowley. The estimate is $100,000-$150,000.

The auctioneer said the dust-jacket, with an illustration by Francis Cugat, “has achieved an iconic status not only for the image but for the difficulty in obtaining a fine or unrestored example. The slightly taller size of the jacket than the book itself has led to most surviving copies in jacket having at least some chips and or restoration.”

The novel was published by Scribner’s of New York in 1925. It is believed that 20,000 copies were printed and the novel was not initially successful. Since then, however, an estimated 25 million copies of The Great Gatsby have been sold worldwide.

The record price for a first edition of The Great Gatsby at auction was $182,000 at Bonham’s in New York five years ago although copies have reputedly been sold by private book dealers for even higher amounts.

As is always the case with modern first editions, copies without the dust-jacket are worth considerably less and sell in the range of $3,000-$5,000.
Art Deco at Bonhams
The Gatsby revival has sparked renewed nterest in the Jazz Age of the 1920s. For its auction on June 19th, Bonhams in London promises to recreate “Gatsby’s dazzling world when art works and furniture from the sparkling Art Deco era will be sold.”

Mark Oliver, the head of decorative arts at Bonhams, said: “I remember the tough three-day week that Britain was enduring when the glorious Gatsby movie came out in the 1970s. It was the perfect escapist fantasy, full of all that Art Deco glamour and larger-than-life social whirl. There are similarities today in that we are in a depressed economic climate and looking for a style to lift us out of the gloom.”

He said the auction would include “ceramics, Lalique glassware, and furnishings of the kind you would see in Jay Gatsby’s home.”

Highlights include a bronze and ivory study of the dancing girl Almeria, by Demetre Chiparus, which is estimated to fetch between £200,000and £300,000.

Chiparus (1886-1947) was a Romanian sculptor who lived and worked in Paris. Almeria is thought to be modelled on the ballerina and choreographer, Bronislava Nijinska. According to Oliver, “Almeria is probably in the top three most desirable Chiparus figures ever produced and one that is rarely available at auction”, and is an exceptionally “fine realisation of the Art Deco style that so typified the affluent world of The Great Gatsby”.

The catalogue can be viewed at

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