We recently purchased a limited edition of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (PS3515.E37 F3 1929a). This is the only Hemingway work to be issued in a signed limited edition form. Printed in a tall octavo format in 1929 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, the run was limited to 510 copies, 500 of which were for sale. It was issued in a numbered slipcase and signed by the author. The volume is half bound in vellum with turquoise paper sides and matching turquoise endpapers. The slipcase is an attractive example of Art Deco style with a red, black, and gold leaf pattern.
This recently purchased copy is number 136. Most of the gatherings are unopened at the head of the book, meaning the text block was not trimmed before binding. It is housed in a red half morocco clamshell box. The library also holds a second copy, number 268, which was a gift from Lindsey L. and Rosalie P. Alexander as part of their Memorial Hemingway Library.
A Farewell to Arms is Hemingway’s semi-autobiographical tale of Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver in World War I Italy, who falls in love with a British VAD nurse, Catherine Barkley. Their relationship grows while Henry is recovering from an injury at a military hospital in Milan. Hemingway himself was a volunteer ambulance driver in Italy, suffering similar wounds as his protagonist, and falling in love with a nurse while recuperating in Milan. Penned nearly a decade after his wartime experiences, Hemingway was faced with the suicide of his father while writing this work. Besides the tragic love affair, the novel exemplifies Hemingway’s disillusionment with war.
Besides Hemingway first editions, translations, film scripts, and artists’ books, the library also owns correspondence as part of the Ernest Hemingway ephemera collection (Coll. no. 1977.003). We contributed a number of these letters to the Ernest Hemingway Letters Project.