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The Finances of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Handwritten by Fitzgerald

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The Finances of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Handwritten by Fitzgerald
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The Finances of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Handwritten by Fitzgerald

In the 1926 page for F. Scott's Fitzgerald's handwritten ledger, now online, the famed writer lists that he sold the "Moving Picture" rights to The Great Gatsby for $16,666. Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of that book, due out next month, has a reported budget of $104.5 million, some of which, due to copyright law should be going to the Fitzgerald estate because his book has yet to enter the public domain

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With Fitzgerald fever set to hit a high point with the release of that film, the University of South Carolina's Thomas Cooper Library have put a digitized version of Fitzgerald's meticulously recorded handwritten ledgers online. The ledgers are—as Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Ernest F. Hollings Library and Rare Books Collection, told the AP—"a record of everything Fitzgerald wrote, and what he did with it, in his own hand." He catalogued all of his money earned by writing between the years 1919 and 1937.

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So you can see Fitzgerald enter Gatsby in 1923 when he received an advance on a new novel. In 1925, they year the first edition was published, he recorded that he received $1,981.85 for Gatsby

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(According to the AP that under $2,000 paycheck for Gatsby was the same amount he got for a short story in The Saturday Evening Post.) 

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The $16,666 "moving picture" rights come in 1926 though he notes "com 10% (twice)" and ultimately puts down $13,500. That year a silent film adaptation of Gatsby came out. 

In 1927 he records additional payment for Gatsby under "Movies."

The ledger, which also includes Fitzgerald's brutally honest and yet also slight "Outline Chart of My Life," is an intriguing look into the life of the writer that has already enchanted so many. Not only do we get a peek at how he chronicled his (and Zelda's) finances, but in the outline he briefly explains his emotional state. Take this entry for September 1925: "Bad beginning with worry. Following football. Pierre Loving. Letters Murphy." 

With Luhrmann's Gatsby adaptation—which Warner Brothers is hoping makes a lot more money than $16,666—we will once again look at Fitzgerald's legacy for better or for worse. (For worse if Luhrmann really screws this up—you be the judge with seven new clips.) This ledger offers a glimpse of how the man who created Gatsby really lived. 

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