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'Borne back ceaselessly into the past'

A first edition copy of "The Great Gatsby" inscribed with a note from F. Scott Fitzgerald to T.S. Eliot was one of three rare books donated to the John Hay Library by Daniel Siegel '57 in December. In addition to "Gatsby," Siegel donated a copy of the first English edition of "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" by Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and "The Quadrupeds of North America" by naturalist John James Audubon.

Fitzgerald's inscription in "The Great Gatsby" reads "For T.S. Elliot/Greatest of Living Poets/ from his entheusiastic/worshipper/F. Scott Fitzgerald/Paris Oct./ 1925." indicating not only that Fitzgerald was a poor speller, but also that he thought highly of Eliot, said Sam Streit, director of special collections at the John Hay Library.

"The fact that Fitzgerald, who was no slouch of an author in his own right, would be in such praise of Eliot is part of what makes (the inscription) important," Streit said.

Eliot also made notes along the margins of the book, remarking on Fitzgerald's word choices and writing his own choices. Eliot may have been making notes on the book's possible future for a British audience, Streit said.

"I believe there was some talk at that point of there being an English edition of 'The Great Gatsby' . . . (so the notes are) probably a commentary on Eliot's view of American English," Streit said. But Streit also said he wasn't sure of the notes' meaning, since they are "a little hard to decipher."

The copy of "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" - British intellectual Frank Ramsey's personal copy - contains notes in English by Wittgenstein himself, Streit said.

While the copy of "The Quadrupeds of North America" does not contain any notes, it is distinctive because it's still in an original paper wrapper. Works like "Quadrupeds" would come in digest format, so most readers would usually remove the wrappers and bind their combined digests, Streit said. The John Hay Library already houses a large Audubon collection, Streit said, so the gift was especially fitting for the library.

Siegel, the owner of Wayland Square's M & S Rare Books, said he donated the books from his private collection in part to encourage others to donate their own books. He said that by donating books in three different subjects he hoped to "show different areas where people could donate their own books." Siegel is also a former member of a board of directors of a group that acquires rare books and manuscripts for Brown's library system.

Fifteen years ago, Siegel began donating books from his estate to Brown, starting with a manuscript of George Orwell's "1984."

"This year was another year to give some," Siegel said. Siegel's donation of the "1984" manuscript led others to donate their first editions of Orwell to Brown.

The library's collection of rare books depends primarily on gifts like Siegel's, Streit said. Though some of the books in the John Hay Library have their own endowments, tight budgets often make it difficult for the library to purchase these rare books. Streit said donations have come from many different sources. "A lot of our donors are alums, some are faculty, some are just people who live in the city or anywhere else," he said.

Students taking of ENGL 0450: "Inventing America," a first-year seminar from last semester that read "The Great Gatsby," plan to view the donated copy of the book in March, Streit said.

As with all other books in the John Hay Library, the three donated books can be viewed by Brown students and members of the general public, though the books cannot leave the library.


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