November 8 marks the birthday of Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell, author of the much-loved 1936 novel Gone with the Wind (GWTW). Since Miss Mitchell was a private person who shunned the spotlight, avoided interviews and steered clear of public appearances following the publication of her book, I honor her by not revealing which anniversary of her birth GWTW fans commemorate this day. Instead, today, during GWTW‘s 75th anniversary year, I celebrate Miss Mitchell as an author and her novel as a phenomenon.
Here are some things you might not know about Miss Mitchell’s novel when Macmillan published the saga of Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler in 1936:
- Macmillan’s spring 1936 catalog devoted a full page to announcing GWTW‘s debut.
- A typographical error escaped the eyes of Macmillan’s catalog proofreaders. The catalog’s inside front cover referred to the book as Come with the Wind.
- Macmillan initially placed a print order for 10,000 copies of GWTW and planned to release the novel formally on May 5, 1936.
- The Book-of-the-Month Club named GWTW its feature selection for July 1936.
- Because of the book-club sale, Macmillan delayed the formal release date for GWTW to June 30, 1936. The publisher still shipped copies of the novel to bookstores in May.
- The prepublication price of GWTW was set at $2.75. But after considering typesetting and printing costs for the 1,037-page novel, Macmillan raised the publication price to $3.00.
- Word-of-mouth news about GWTW accelerated the public’s demand for the new book. Macmillan ordered three subsequent printings during the month of June.
- Before the official release date had even arrived, a total of 100,000 copies of GWTW were in print.
- First-edition book collectors were confused! Copies of GWTW purchased at publication bore “Published in June” on the copyright page [there had been three printings in June], yet earlier copies carried “Published in May.” Collectors flooded Macmillan with requests for clarification. As a result, Macmillan was compelled to send out form letters explaining that copies of the novel with the May publication date were the real first editions.
- Bookstores were unable to keep GWTW on the shelves or in their window displays. Proprietors complained that bookstore windows were broken and that thieves were making off with copies of the novel.
- One month after publication, 201,000 copies of GWTW were in print. By September 1936, with 370,000 copies in print, GWTW was declared the fastest-selling book in history.
- The one-millionth copy of GWTW was printed on December 15, 1936. Macmillan made this most significant volume a gift to Margaret Mitchell.
- Seventy-five years after its publication, GWTW continues to sell approximately 250,000 copies each year.
Learn more about Miss Mitchell and her novel in my book The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book: The Movie & More (http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Gone-Wind-Trivia-Book/dp/0878336192/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1320763087&sr=1-1).
Happy birthday, Miss Mitchell! Happy 75th anniversary to the timeless Gone with the Wind!
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