Should you ever discuss Gone With the Wind again with her, I wish you would ask her if she read the Italian translation. If she has read it, ask her if she thinks it is a good and interesting translation. Books lose so much by translation, even when it is carefully done. I have wondered how my book fared.
You will notice that I have not autographed the book I am sending you. I have not autographed a copy of Gone With the Wind or an album or any other object since 1936, and I do not intend to autograph again. I am sorry to refuse this favor but having established this policy so many years ago I now cannot reverse my stand. In 1936, when the first million copies of Gone With the Wind were sold, the demand for autographs was in proportion to the number of sales and I was getting no chance to eat or sleep. Regretfully, I had to establish a ‘no autographing’ policy. I am sending a pamphlet printed by my American publishers in the same package with the book. It contains photographs and some material on the background of Gone With the Wind. I hope your friend finds some interest in it.
It was very nice of you to tell me about the interest of this educated Italian girl in a book about Georgia. Of course I was amused at hearing about her attempts at Southern dialect…”
After writing for the Atlanta Journal, Mitchell began work on Gone With the Wind, an effort that took her ten years to complete. Her epic story of the American Civil War and its aftermath sold one million copies in its first six months of publication in 1936 – at the time the biggest selling novel in U.S. publishing history. By the time of her death, sales had reached 8,000,000. The motion picture version of the novel, released in 1939, also enjoyed extraordinary success, winning eight Oscars in 1940. English actress Vivien Leigh played the part of Scarlett O’Hara opposite Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler.
Margaret Mitchell with the cast of Gone With the Wind
A testament to the book’s popularity, it has been translated into 27 foreign languages in 37 countries. By 1941, 25,000 copies of the Italian edition, featuring the heroine “Rosella O’Hara,” had been sold in Italy alone. Mitchell filled her bookcases with both the authorized and abundant pirated editions. In 1941, for example, the Nazis banned Gone With the Wind, which led to a black market for the book, leaving Mitchell with no control over German markets. Demand continued for a German edition even through the war’s devastation. But in its aftermath, Mitchell had first to find out which publishers were still alive and where they or their heirs were. She once said of these dealings, it’s “like trying to swim where a dyke has been dynamited,” (Southern Daughter, Pyron). Nonetheless, Mitchell remained strongly interested in her publishing affairs up to her untimely death in 1949.
Our letter was written to a Georgia officer stationed in Italy during WWII’s Italian Campaign, which started with the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. The attack on Italy’s mainland followed in September, several months after Mussolini had been deposed. Although the Allies conquered most of Southern Italy by October, it was only through fierce fighting that American forces took Rome in June 1944, with fighting continuing until May 1945. Gently folded with slight browning and sticky mounting residue along the very upper and lower edges, touching the bottom part of the letter “g” in “Margaret.” With the original typed envelope.