USC puts Fitzgerald’s ledger online

Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Ernest F. Hollings Library and Rare Books Collection at the University of South Carolina, talks about a ledger owned by author F. Scott Fitzgerald, in Columbia, S.C. The university has digitized the ledger and put it online for scholars. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

Jeffrey Collins

COLUMBIA — A peek into the daily scribbles and life of author F. Scott Fitzgerald is now available online, in time for the new film version of “The Great Gatsby.”

Researchers from the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library put a digital version of the famed author’s handwritten financial ledger on their website, making it available for the first time.

“This is a record of everything Fitzgerald wrote, and what he did with it, in his own hand,” said Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Hollings Library and Rare Books Collection.

The ledger’s yellowed pages, with Fitzgerald’s elegant, cursive strokes, are a throwback to life before computers. The book shows Fitzgerald’s tally of earnings from his works, the most famous of which is the novel “The Great Gatsby.”

With the new “Gatsby” movie, Sudduth says they expect an upswing in interest in their Fitzgerald collection.

The library’s Fitzgerald collection is considered the world’s most comprehensive, with more than 3,000 publications, manuscripts, letters, books, screenplays and mem- orabilia. Some parts of the collection already are online.

In the ledger, Fitzgerald lists in careful columns his pieces of writing, the location they were printed, and the income they produced. His comments are sprinkled in. He describes the year 1919, when his first novel was accepted for publication and Zelda Sayre agreed to marry him, as “The most important year of life. Every emotion and my life work decided. Miserable and ecstatic but a great success.”

With a laugh, Sudduth noted: “We know he didn’t spell very well. And his arithmetic wasn’t much better,”

But the overall document, she said, “shows that he was far more on top of his affairs than people thought,” given a reputation in later life as a heavy drinker.

In 1925, the ledger shows Fitzgerald earned less than $2,000 for the “Gatsby” book, the same amount he received for a single short story for The Saturday Evening Post. In later years, Fitzgerald added earnings from “Gatsby” for motion picture and play rights.

Late USC Professor Matthew Bruccoli began to acquire items for the collection in the 1950s. He received some, including the ledger, from the author’s only child, daughter Frances Scott Fitzgerald, also known as Scottie. Bruccoli gave it to the university in 1994. It is valued at more than $4 million, Sudduth said.