Q: My grandmother was best friends with Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind. The tea scene with Scarlett (O’Hara) was done because it reminded Ms. Mitchell of my grandmother. When my grandmother died, my sister was given her numbered edition of Gone with the Wind that was personally given to her by Ms. Mitchell, but it was not signed by the author. The book is marked #226 of 1,000 and was issued on Dec. 1, 1939. Although my sister would never sell it, do you have any idea of its worth?
T. S. H., Atlanta
A: Initially, Margaret Mitchell (1900-1949) is said to have wanted to title her magnum opus “Tomorrow is Another Day.” But she chose the resounding phrase “gone with the wind,” which came from the first line of the 1894 poem Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae by English poet Ernest Christopher Dowson, because it had the “…far away, faintly sad sound” she wanted.
There were long periods when Margaret Mitchell thought that her long historical novel was unpublishable. She began writing her book in 1926, and when she faltered, her husband, a copy editor by profession, reportedly insisted she carry on with what would become a 1,000-plus-page epic of the Old South.
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The first edition, first issue of this book came out in May 1936 and was an immediate success that generated many, many subsequent printings.
Collectors tend to focus on the books that have only the “Published May, 1936” notation on the copyright page, and those signed by Mitchell herself are highly desired. We have seen the “Published May, 1936” editions with Mitchell’s signature being offered for sale for as much as $85,000, but that particular example is greatly enhanced with the inclusion of a letter from Clark Gable written more than 20 years after the release of the movie Gone With the Wind, discussing the movie and the part Mitchell played in helping Gable play the character of Rhett Butler correctly.
Most first editions with their dust jackets (these are very important to all first editions) and Mitchell’s signature have asking prices between $12,000 and $25,000, with values depending on condition, the state of the dust jacket and many other factors.
Focusing on T. S. H.’s two-volume, limited edition set, our research suggests these should have glassine dust jackets and a slip case, but we are not sure if these are present. Still, an insurance value of $750 to $850 is appropriate.
Write to Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a high-resolution, in-focus photo of the subject.