June 30, 2016 marks the 80th anniversary of the publication of Gone with the Wind. What many fans of Margaret Mitchell’s novel don’t realize is that editions of the book bearing a June 1936 publication date are not first editions. How can that be? Here’s the scoop:
Macmillan, the publisher, initially ordered 10,000 copies of Gone with the Wind to be printed in time for the novel’s formal release on May 5, 1936. But then The Book-of-the-Month Club named Gone with the Wind its feature selection for July 1936. Because of this, Macmillan delayed the formal release date for Gone with the Wind to June 30, 1936. The publisher still shipped copies of the novel to bookstores in May.
Word-of-mouth news about Gone with the Wind 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 Gone with the Wind were in print.
That confused first-edition book collectors. Copies of Gone with the Wind purchased at publication bore “Published in June” on the copyright page, 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 Gone with the Wind 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 Gone with the Wind were in print. By September 1936, with 370,000 copies in print, Gone with the Wind was declared the fastest-selling book in history. The one-millionth copy of Gone with the Wind was printed on December 15, 1936. Macmillan made this most significant volume a gift to author Margaret Mitchell.
Happy 80th anniversary, Gone with the Wind!
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition) and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel and “like” her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheCompleteGWTWTriviaBook).