F. Scott Fitzgerald's Handwritten Ledger Goes Online

'Gatsby' author apparently couldn't spell very well

By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 28, 2013 4:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby again hits the silver screen in a couple of weeks, and a rare look at some of the author's more mundane writings is getting aired. Fitzgerald's own financial ledger, a detailed handwritten account of his earnings for his various books and short stories and their adaptations, is now online, courtesy of the University of South Carolina, which holds the original in its massive Fitzgerald collection. "This is a record of everything Fitzgerald wrote, and what he did with it, in his own hand," says the school's Rare Books Collection director. Some highlights:

  • Fitzgerald calls 1919 "the most important year of life. Every emotion and my life work decided. Miserable and ecstatic but a great success." His first novel was accepted for publication and he became engaged to Zelda Sayre.
  • Fitzgerald made less than $2,000 from The Great Gatsby in 1925—the same amount he made for a short story he sold to the Saturday Evening Post. He later added $16,666 for foreign movie rights and $5,000 when Gatsby was staged as a play.
  • The star of the ledger? Fitzgerald's own handwriting, which the AP describes as "elegant, measured cursive strokes." "Students always remark how much they love his handwriting," says a USC English professor. "They think his handwriting is just beautiful, and handwriting isn't valued today."
  • Handwriting aside, the ledger exposes Fitzgerald's faults. Notably, "he didn't spell very well. And his arithmetic wasn't much better," says USC's rare books director.
  • Most of Fitzgerald's money in fact came from short stories, and he was no starving artist. "It was the rarest of things, an author who made a living," says the prof.
Click for the online version of the ledger.

In this Tuesday, March 26, 2013 photo, a ledger owned by author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The University of South Carolina has digitized the ledger and put it online for scholars.
In this Tuesday, March 26, 2013 photo, a ledger owned by author F. Scott Fitzgerald. The University of South Carolina has digitized the ledger and put it online for scholars.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
In this Tuesday, March 26, 2013 photo, Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Rare Books Collection at the University of South Carolina, talks about a ledger owned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In this Tuesday, March 26, 2013 photo, Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Rare Books Collection at the University of South Carolina, talks about a ledger owned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.   (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
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