[ModLib] _GG_ in Modern Library signed to ZF

Roger Lathbury lathbury at gmu.edu
Sun Dec 28 22:30:06 EST 2008

Dear Folks:

I am the person who had doubts--though not a conclusive opinion--about the signed-to-Zelda Modern Library _The Great Gatsby._

I should perhaps amplify or clarify:

1. No one--certainly not I--can say anything approaching the authoritative without seeing the book in question. When such an extraordinary item appears, one has to demand more than usual proof, of course, of its authenticity. It may be quite genuine and desirable. Judgment has to be withheld in the absence of evidence.

2. The fact that no other collector has heard about this copy is a warning sign, but is not, as you note, a sure indication that the book is not right. Bruccoli and I (especially MJB) heard about or were offered almost every major Fitzgerald item to be sold in the past 30 years. Bruccoli was the authority and had money for items he wanted. He would have seized upon this. He certainly would have told me about it. He showed me, years ago, in Columbia, the only known books signed by both Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (not one of Fitzgerald's own books).

3. In Washington, D. C., in 1980, I paid $3000 for a signed copy of Fitzgerald's play _The Vegetable_ (signed cleverly and exuberantly to H. L. Mencken, but an inferior work). A _Gatsby_ signed to Zelda would have gone for much more, especially in California, where books prices tend to be higher; $1600 is extraordinarily low even for the mid 1970's. Again, that's not proof, but does it not make one wonder? I bought my signed Eudora Welty Modern Library for $3.00, but the store was unaware of the inscription.

4. I ask myself where Zelda would have kept this particular copy of _Gatsby_ and how it got to San Francisco. (Through Mildred Squires, her analyst at Phipps?). We know that Zelda read _Tender is the Night,_ published in the same year (1934) because there is a letter to FSF from her about the book. She never mentions receiving a _Gatsby._ The copy of _Tender_ that she read has not turned up or been identified. It's unclear that this copy was signed. The Harold Ober office in New York does not have it. Did it travel with her when she lived in Montgomery, Alabama, 1937-1948 (with interruptions)?

Neither here nor there:

John O'Hara, whom one may not believe, reports (with distaste, but that's part of O'Hara's competitive game) Fitzgerald's willingness to flirt with his mentally ill wife in Maryland in 1934. It is not impossible that he would give her a reissue of one of his books. If the book is in fact genuine, it would be a very interesting artifact. Any inscription would throw meaningful light on the FSF-ZF connection at that time. I would love to know what the inscription said.

In 1934 Fitzgerald was in desperate straits and was pinning many hopes on _Tender is the Night. Gatsby_ was not a focus of his at the time. That could argue for a casual disposition of any copies he had. I might be possible to check Random House records (forget where they are now housed) to see how many author's copies FSF was sent. He made clear to Maxwell Perkins how many he wanted of _Tender_ when it came out, but there is no letter about author's copies to Bennett Cerf.

I own six signed Fitzgerald books, but only one _Gatsby_--the Modern Library edition. I do own two other copies of _The Great Gatsby,_ one bound in green, one in blue, in the Modern Library edition. The blue one has a dust jacket, but neither the green nor blue copies are signed.

I don't follow Neal's reasoning about point # 3 but would like to, if he is willing to explain further.


Roger Lathbury
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