The estate of Margaret Mitchell has made a multimillion dollar donation to the Archdiocese of Atlanta that includes a 50% share of the trademark and literary rights to Gone With the Wind, Mitchell’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel. The donation was the result of a bequest made by Joseph Mitchell, Margaret Mitchell’s nephew and last direct descendant. He passed away last October. Along with his late brother, Joseph had inherited a trust that a share of the literary and trademark rights to Gone With the Wind. (The remainder of the rights are held in trust for Joseph’s late brother.)
Also included in Joseph’s inheritance, and his subsequent gift to the Archdiocese, are a collection of signed first editions of the bestseller published in various languages from around the globe; a number of Margaret Mitchell’s personal effects, including her wallet in which her press and library card can be found; and a collection of books that contains histories and signed first editions of novels and short stories by Flannery O’Connor.
Mitchell penned Gone With the Wind after quitting her job as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal and while she was at home recovering from an injury (“In a weak moment I have written a book.”). The novel was published in 1936, ten years after Mitchell had begun writing. It immediately broke all sales records and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction the following year. By 1939, when David O. Selznick’s film version was released, the novel had sold over 2 million copies worldwide. (The film won thirteen Academy Award nominations and eight Oscars, including Best Picture.) The novel has been translated into every major language and reappeared twice on the bestseller list in 1986 and 1991. Publisher’s Weekly estimates that 75,ooo copies of Gone With the Wind are sold in the United States every year.
Deacon Steve Swope, who is overseeing the transition of the bequest, calls the donation a “magnificent gift” and notes that the Archdiocese wants to “continue to make Gone With the Wind available to the widest possible audience.” In the future, he hopes that the collection can be loaned to a major institution for public display. Swope says it’s hard to determine the annual royalties from owning the book rights, but thinks it could be in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.
Mitchell heir leaves millions, literary rights to Atlanta Archdiocese [Catholic News Service]
Margaret Mitchell’s nephew leaves estate to Atlanta Archdiocese [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Margaret Mitchell [American National Biography Online]