Hemingway Treasures: what makes these books so valuable?
In 2014, a signed copy of the first edition of The Sun Also Rises was auctioned for around 139,000 euros, making it the most valuable book by the author who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Upon its publication, the work which portrays the life of a group of American and British artists exiled in Paris, has received mixed reviews. However, it quickly became a cult novel for young Europeans of the interwar period, being considered by many to be Hemingway's masterpiece.
This copy, auctioned by Sotheby’s, stood out for its excellent condition. The black cloth with printed gold foil labels is immaculate and retains the original dust jacket, designed by renowned Cleonike Damianakes. In 2011 another signed copy was bid for 95,000 euros and, this year, another copy of the first edition reached 75,000 euros.
In 2002 a copy of A Farewell to Arms, another of the author's most acclaimed works, was auctioned by Christie’s, for around 67,000 euros. It is a first edition, made unique by the words of the author, written in pencil on the frontispiece: "To Eric Knight this account of life and travels in Northern Italy during 1917 and 18 with a short excursion on the [Staban] lakes and an account of part of a winter spent in French Switzerland above Lake Lewan with best wishes from the author Ernest Hemingway". Additionally, Hemingway has written on the following page, "Because this book is dear to me I send it to you".
Old Man and The Sea was Hemingway's last major work of fiction, written two years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. A copy of the first edition was auctioned at Christie’s, in 2018, for around 32,000 euros. The book is signed by the author and contains an inscription to his goddaughter Alden Calmer: "For Alden this strange book which I had the un-believable (sp.) luck to write. E.H".
These three examples show that each book is a unique object, valued for unrepeatable characteristics such as its state of conservation, a signature or an inscription. Marks (or the absence of them) that bear witness to the story beyond the story, of each of these treasures.