Elmer Gantry

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Author: Lewis, Sinclair [Harry] (1885-1951)

Year: 1927

Publisher: Harcourt,, Brace & Co

Place: New York


[i-ix]+1[sic]-432] pages. Small octavo (7 5/8" x 5 1/4") issued in blue cloth with title in blue negative of orange rectangle, printed, not imressed; author's name in orange on front cover. Dust jacket green with dark green lettering to spine and cover with a dark green bar at hinge and red bar at fold over edge. (pastore: 151) 18,650 copies of the first editon first state (C for G on spine) with a total of 140,000 copies of the first editon. 1st edtion, second state.

The "preacher novel" as it was called was started in Pequot, Minnesota and finished in New York City. No doubt that this was Lewis's chance at organized religion and he relished the impact that he could make. Alfred Harcourt knew this was the "big one." H L Mencken had written to Harcourt telling him that the last third of the book had been written by Lewis in a total state of drunkenness. Harcourt cared little for the source of his author's inspiration, only the marketability of the work product. Halfway through the writing of this novel Lewis's father, DR E J Lewis died. The conflict within Lewis, indeed, the love-hate relationship with his father which was the wellspring Lewis would return to time after time, had a new impact. Gantry is Lewis at this most vitriolic. This book was originally titled Sounding Brass but Lewis discovered that another book with the same title was due out the same year. Lewis's second choice was Reverend Bloor and he continued to call it this until Alfred Harcourt adivsed him that no one liked that name and suggested The Reverend. Lewis then suggested Elmer Bloor and then Myron Mellish and the The Reverend Doctor. It was not until June of 1926 that everyone agreed with Lewis's last effort, Elmer Gantry. Advance copies of the book were sent to clergymen all over the country. Needless to say, the reaction was predictable and commercially inspirational. The novel was universally condemned by every religious body in the United States; better publicity could not be had at any cost. Donald Brace, in anticipation of the demand for the book that attacked the "high collar," ordered the printer to produce 140,000 copies of the first edtion, the largest initial printing ever made in the history of book printing. In the ecstasy of the anticipated moment, the cover lay-up man at Quinn and Boden in Rahway, New Jersey misdesigned the spine lettering resulting in the now famous issue point of the Elmer Gantry edition. Nearly 20,000 copies wre produced and shipped before a bookseller in Austin, Texas wrote to Harcourt about the "error." The lay-up man blamed the error on "bleed," the spreading of the orange ink on the treated blue cloth. Brace felt otherwise but merely admonished the printer. It had to have been very difficult for the publisher to be angered about anything when the Book-of-the-Month Club picked up Gantry as it March 1927 selection and sales topped 175,000 within six weeks. (Pastore: 147-8)


Corners gently bumped, light extremitiy wear. Dust jacket chipped at corners and edges, 1" loss to spine heal, 1/2" chips to spine head and edges, closed tears to edges, some rubbing to hinges and fold over edges. A very good copy in a good dust jacket.

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