The 2005 Great April Fools Spoof

~ How the greatest ML rarity of all time
was nearly discovered ~

On April 1st of 2005, ModernLib life member and host of the Modern Library Mailing List John Krygier posted a message. Under the title "Unbelievable ML Find," the message consisted of the single line "I don't know what to say" followed by a link. The link went to these images:

Several expert members went nuts. Here's why: Gatsby is one of the scarcest titles in the ML catalog. It was also one of the poorest-selling titles in the series, with far fewer copies sold than the 5,000 printed for the first edition in 1934. Klopfer and Cerf kept it in the catalog for five years hoping it would sell—they really liked the book—but were forced to discontinue it in 1939. A new printing of the dust jackets was made for remaining copies, all of them stamped "Discontinued," and the books were sold at a discount. But the real issue is that the single printing of the books happened in 1934—five years before the style of book and dust jacket shown above existed! Here's what the real Gatsby DJ looked like:

(The book's front panel was quite generic with just the torchbearer and no title, typical for a 1934 binding.)

Folks soon got that it was a spoof, and John fessed up. It was all done in Photoshop, John reported.

"The DJ was relatively easy. I scanned a typical 1940s text DJ (McFee) for the overall DJ, kept the stuff on the bottom and removed the title and author. I then grabbed the DJ image from a recent eBay Gatsby (I don't have a Gatsby myself). It had the discontinued stamp over some of the title, so I got rid of that. The author name is in black on the original DJ, so I reversed that to be white. I copied the color of the eBay Gatsby and made the DJ that color (the McFee is darker blue). The resolution of the eBay Gatsby scan was not so great, accounting for the blur. I blurred the "Modern Library" text and running man at the bottom of the DJ to match the blur of the title and author, and sprinkled some 'noise' over the image to make it look older. If I had a better Gatsby DJ to start out with it would have been better.

"The book was more work. I am embarrassed to say that I had to scan a seven or eight ML books to get all the letters for the book title and author. 'The' and 'Great' were very easy, but the rest was letter by letter. I learned that the letter size varies from book to book - so I had to scale the letters so they were all the right size. The gold varied in color I had to adjust that. The book too is (was) McFee. Maybe an hour or so of work. Would be it so easy in reality to convert Mcfee into Fitzgerald..."

Nice work, John.

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