Digitization of The Great Gatsby Autograph Manuscript and Galleys

The Princeton University Library is very pleased to announce the digitization of the autograph manuscript and corrected galleys of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), The Great Gatsby (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925), which were donated to the Princeton University Library in 1950 by Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan, the daughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald. These manuscripts are part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers (C0187), the best-known, comprehensive author archive in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. We can see Fitzgerald at work on his third novel over a four-year period: (1) Ur-Gatsby (2-page fragment), the author’s abandoned effort, conceived in 1922 and written in 1923; (2) The Great Gatsby autograph manuscript (302 pages), which he largely wrote in France and completed by September 1924; and (3) corrected galleys of “Trimalchio,” the novel’s working title when it was typeset by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1924, only to be much reworked by the author early in 1925. The digital images are online in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL): with the permission of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Trust (copyright holder), acting in consultation with Harold Ober Associates (literary agency representing the Fitzgerald Literary Trust) and Simon & Schuster (owner of the Scribner imprint). The digitized manuscript and galleys are online in time for Princeton University’s Commencement 2013, a century after F. Scott Fitzgerald (Class of 1917) became a freshman at Princeton in 1913. Digitization is particularly timely because of intense popular interest in the author and his great novel as a result of Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann’s new film version of The Great Gatsby, released on May 10.

Fitzgerald conceived and crafted his novel in layers over a three-year period. In June 1922, living at White Bear Lake, Minnesota, he began planning his new book, which Fitzgerald specialists now refer to as the Ur-Gatsby. He started writing this novel in June 1923 and produced some 18,000 words. It was set in the Midwest around 1885 and did not have Nick Carraway as its narrator. Two pages of this manuscript survive at Princeton quite by chance, since Fitzgerald attached them to a letter that he sent to Willa Cather. But much of the Ur-Gatsby text was discarded or published elsewhere, such as the short story “Absolution” (June 1924). By April 1924, now living in Great Neck, New York, Fitzgerald began working on the novel again, but now set in 1922. Fitzgerald completed the autograph manuscript in France by September 1924. The draft was just over 250 pages, almost always only on rectos. Fitzgerald customarily wrote in pencil, as we can see in a brief bit of grainy 1920s film footage showing him writing in a garden. He did not type and therefore had a secretary prepare a typescript from the manuscript.

In November 1924, Fitzgerald sent the typescript to his legendary Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, who had galleys set from them. Unfortunately, this typescript and subsequent typescripts and carbon copies do not survive. The “Trimalchio” galleys were sent to Fitzgerald in Rome, where he corrected and revised them during the first two months of 1925. The author corrected the galleys in pencil but also pasted on long typed additions of text. As James L.W. West III has noted in his edition of Trimalchio, the book in the original galleys was not the same novel as The Great Gatsby as finally published. Despite similarities, there are crucial differences. Fitzgerald conveyed or recommended additional corrections and changes to Maxwell Perkins by letter and telegram. Among other things, the author considered alternative titles, such as “Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires” and “Gold-Hatted Gatsby.” By spring 1925, Fitzgerald settled on “Under the Red, White and Blue.” However, by the time he had communicated this to Maxwell Perkins, the book had already been published (April 10, 1925) as The Great Gatsby, the title Perkins liked best. Fitzgerald had hesitated about the title because he said there was nothing great about Jay Gatsby and felt that the title, using a surname, might remind people of Sinclair Lewis’s novel Babbitt (1922).

Matthew J. Bruccoli suggested that some portions in a smaller hand were copied from the earlier manuscript draft, while others in a larger hand were first draft. Fitzgerald made innumerable changes in the story line and inserted new text at many points. Clearly visible on nearly every page of the autograph manuscript are his corrections (from entire passages and paragraphs to cross outs with interlinear replacements of a word or phrase), erasures (some decipherable, others not, leaving gaps in the text), instructions (with arrows), handwritten additions on additional sheets of paper, and other changes. The creative process is also much in evidence with the galleys, which the author corrected in pencil, as well as adding typed sheets of revised text tipped onto particular galleys. Bruccoli argued that the author “regarded galleys as a special kind of typescript or trial edition in which to rewrite whole scenes as necessary.” Fitzgerald sent innumerable letters and telegrams to his legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, preserved at Princeton in the Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons (C0101). Most of them relate to progress on the book, but some sent from Rome and Capri list corrections. Even after publication, Fitzgerald continued to think of making more changes in later printings or additions, and for this reason corrected a personal copy of the first edition, which is preserved in his papers.

For information about the digital edition of The Great Gatsby autograph manuscript and corrected galleys, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, dcskemer@princeton.edu  For a recent interview, see Princeton Alumni Weekly (June 5, 2013): http://paw.princeton.edu/issues/2013/06/05/pages/5800/index.xml  Concerning the Fitzgerald Papers and photoduplication, email Gabriel Swift, Reference Librarian, gswift@princeton.edu; rbsc@princeton.edu  Essential bibliography about the manuscript and galleys includes F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Facsimile of the Manuscript, edited with an introduction by Matthew J. Bruccoli (Washington, D.C.: Microcard Editions Books, 1973); Matthew J. Bruccoli, “An Instance of Apparent Plagiarism: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, and the First Gatsby Manuscript,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 39 (Spring 1978), pp. 171–78; Trimalchio: A Facsimile Edition of the Original Galley Proofs for The Great Gatsby, afterword by Matthew J. Bruccoli (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, in cooperation with the Thomas Cooper Library, 2000); F. Scott Fitzgerald, Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby, edited by James L.W. West III, Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Autograph manuscript of The Great Gatsby, first page. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Autograph manuscript of The Great Gatsby, first page. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.