When collecting modern first editions, so much of the value of a book is actually held within that thin and sometimes fragile piece of paper called the dust jacket. Those who are new to book collecting, may think this is a strange thought… but any true collector is sure to desire that perfect (or as close to perfect) jacket. There are many reasons for this. The first is obvious, this is what shows on the shelf, and a chipped or torn jacket is just not appealing. The second, is that a jacket in fine condition is much more rare than the books themselves, as they are much more easily torn, discarded, faded, or many other things that can happen to a jacket. This is especially true with children’s books. Finally, dust jacket art can really define a book for us in our minds.

When we think of The Great Gatsby, for example, the first thing that often pops into our minds is the following cover:

Great Gatsby first edition in jacket

Great Gatsby first edition in first issue dust jacket

This cover art was entitled ‘Celestial Eyes’ and was designed by artist Francis Cugat, who was not well known at the time. Fitzgerald, however, fell in love with the design and actually wrote a number of things into the novel to relate it to the proposed cover.

The first edition of The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. The book did not actually sell well during Fitzgerald’s lifetime, but it is now thought to be the greatest American novel of the twentieth century.

The copy shown above sold last year for a record $182,000 last year at Bonham’s in New York. As you can see, there is wear to the jacket… but that just shows how rare the jacket is that it would fetch this price. In contrast a very good copy of a first edition without the jacket goes for about $2500-$3500. If it were fine, it could potentially be around $10,000, but this is obviously quite a discrepancy. Even a second state with the dust jacket can be $50 -$100,000, whereas without it would only be in the $1-2,000 range.

So, just in case you wondered, here are the first edition issue points for the American edition of The Great Gatsby.

For the book:

  • Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, with the date of 1925 on title page
  • The Scribner seal is on the copyright page
  • On page 60, line 16 is the word “chatter” (later states change to “echolalia”)
  • On page 119, line 22 is the word “northern” (later states changed to “southern”)
  • On page 205 , lines 9-10 is the word “sick in tired” (later changed to “sickantired”)
  • On page 211, lines 7-8 is the words “Union Street Station” (later changed to “Union Station”)

For the dust jacket

  • On the first printing , the back of dust jacket, there is a lowercase “j” in “jay Gatsby” on line 14, which was hand-corrected in ink on most copies or overstamped on a few copies with a capital “J”.
  • The second state jacket had the error corrected on the dust jacket.
  • The third printing of the jacket has review comments included.
The first issue jacket of the Great Gatsby, with the lowercase j in "Jay"

The first issue jacket of the Great Gatsby, with the lowercase j in “Jay”

Third Issue Jacket

Third Issue Jacket

So now you know… you can judge a book by its cover.