Local bookseller A Cappella Books has come into possession of a very rare copy of Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The book is a signed first edition with the inscription, "To Mrs. Robert Field, With a World of Love, Margaret Mitchell." Why is that significant? Owner Frank Reiss sent out an email earlier this week explaining exactly why:
I just came back from South Carolina with a signed first edition I just know you'll want to know about.
It's a first edition, first printing, in the original dust jacket, from May, 1936, of Gone With the Wind. And it's not simply signed by Margaret Mitchell; it's inscribed: "To Mrs. Robert Field, With a World of Love, Margaret Mitchell."
To understand how special this copy is, you need to know who Mrs. Robert Field was. She was the mother of Medora Field Perkerson, who was Margaret Mitchell's best friend, the maid-of-honor in her wedding.
It was Medora who, in 1935, introduced Mitchell to the Atlanta representative for the Macmillan Company, who first alerted Macmillan's Editor-in-Chief Harold Latham about the book Mitchell was working on. When Latham came to Atlanta, it was Medora who hosted a luncheon at Rich's for him and who made sure he and Mitchell sat next to one another.
Once Gone With the Wind came out, the publicity-shy Mitchell didn't do a lot of interviews, but she did one on local Atlanta radio....with Medora Field Perkerson.
When the movie premiered in Atlanta in 1939, it was Medora again who hosted a cocktail party for the occasion at the Piedmont Driving Club.
Medora Field Perkerson went on to write two best-selling novels herself, both made into major motion pictures, and she also authored a book still very much in demand among Southern history enthusiasts, White Columns in Georgia.
Ellen Brown, a fellow rare book dealer and journalist and author of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood, saw many signed and inscribed copies of the book while doing her research. She told me that she had never seen one with the word "love." This is truly an amazing association copy. Medora was childless. She left this book to her niece, from whom we purchased it.
Now, a bit about how scarce this actual printing is: Gone With the Wind was originally supposed to be published in May, 1936. Ten thousand copies of the debut novel were printed with that date on the copyright page. However, before it came out, Macmillan made a deal with The Book-of-the-Month Club for the release of the book to be delayed until June of that year. By the time the copyright page was reset, removing any indication of the May printing, early reviews and pre-orders from bookstores around the country were so exceptional that the publisher went through several more printings totalling 50,000 copies before the release date. By the end of the year, there were many more printings, as the book was on its ways to selling millions. Only those first 10,000 had the date of "May, 1936" printed in them. Seventy-seven years later, there are far fewer than that, and very few as well-preserved as this one (We've seen a lot of very-well-loved copies of the book in our day). There are even fewer still that remain in the original dust jacket.
The original dust jacket is an interesting story in itself. As a debut novel, and with the unpredictability of the publishing business, Gone With the Wind was one of 17 novels Macmillan was publishing that season, and on the back of the dust jacket, the titles are listed in two columns with Gone With the Wind listed as the second title in the second column. Nothing special.
By the time the book was actually published, one month later, it was clear it was going to be the book of the season (and, eventually, the year - winning the Pulitzer Prize - and arguably of the century!), and the dust jacket was reprinted to have Gone With the Wind in its rightful place at the top of the first column. One thing didn't change about the later dust jacket: the $3.00 price.
Mrs. Field's $3.00 investment in the May printing, with the May dust jacket, personalized with such a genuine, warm inscription, turned out pretty well. This unique copy of one of the most popular books of all time is now valued at $25,000.
You can contact A Cappella Books for more information.
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