|The 1945 Armed Services Edition of The Great Gatsby.|
In Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions (1984) writer Matthew Bruccoli theorized on the Gatsby sales boost that returning GIs may have produced:
“There is no way to determine how many converts to literature—or, less elegantly, to reading—were made by the ASE. The fix was free. Moreover, it seems highly probable that some postwar reputations were stimulated by the introduction of authors in the ASE to readers who had never read them before. One hundred fifty-five thousand ASE copies of The Great Gatsby were distributed—as against the twenty-five thousand copies of the novel printed by Scribners between 1925 and 1942. Was there a connection between the ASE publication of Gatsby and Diamond as Big as the Ritz and the Fitzgerald revival that commenced in the late 1940s?”
The Armed Services Edition print run of The Great Gatsby was 155,000 copies, nearly eight times the book’s first printing in 1925. Soldiers and sailors tended to swap their books when they were finished reading. So, the real number of new readers introduced to Fitzgerald’s writing could have been much higher than number of copies circulating in the military. Both Gatsby and Diamond (with a print run of 90,000) were distributed after Germany and Japan surrendered. There were still millions of Americans overseas, and they had a lot of spare time for reading. It’s a convincing idea that these hundreds of thousands GIs who came home after the war sparked the new popularity of Fitzgerald, cementing The Great Gatsby’s reputation as a great American novel.
|1946 Armed Services Edition of Diamond as Big as the Ritz.|
You can hear author Maureen Corrigan talk about this online in her September 8th interview on NPR's Fresh Air.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., Editor. New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Cole, John Y. Books in Action: The Armed Services Editions. The Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 1984.
Read about The Council on Books in Wartime, the publisher of the Armed Services Editions.
Read about the history of the Armed Services Editions.
Read about the unique design of the Armed Services Edition paperbacks.