Ernest Hemingway: Which Was Papa Hemingway’s Real First Book?

Ernest Hemingway is one of the all time greats of American literature, whose style was a stark contrast (if not complete polar opposite) of his literary rival, William Faulkner. Hemingway’s direct and precise style of writing is still often cited to aspiring writers across universities everywhere as the model for them to follow.

What’s interesting is the unconventional way in which Ernest Hemingway got his literary career started. If you’re an amateur book collector looking for the very first Ernest Hemingway novel, you’re going to have a hard time finding it. Ernest Hemingway had to pay his dues like most famous writers, and when someone refers to “Hemingway’s first novel” they might be referring to one of three works:

“Three Stories and Ten Poems”
“In Our Time”
“Torrents of Spring”

These are the earliest works of Hemingway. Technically the very first one published was “Three Stories and Ten Poems,” which is the rarest, and was actually self-published because no one else wanted it.

Only 300 copies were printed in 1923, and a perfect copy of the first edition of “3 stories and 10 poems” would now sell for $ 65,000. Even a copy in beat up rough shape is worth $ 3,500 minimum. Since there were only 300 original copies printed, you can imagine how hard it is to find a copy.

Ironically, “In Our Time” was supposed to be Hemingway’s first novel and was accepted by a French publisher, but publishing was delayed, so this novel wasn’t printed until 1924. There were only 170 copies made of the first version, released by William Bird Press of Paris.

A perfect first edition of “In Our Time” is worth $ 50,000, while a 1925 New York printing is worth about the same, but only with a dust jacket.

“The Torrents of Spring” was printed in 1926 and is often mistaken for Ernest’s original novel because it was the work that really gained national and international attention for the young author. A “Torrents of Spring” first draft with dust jacket is worth around $ 20,000 in excellent condition. The same novel is in worn, but good, condition, is worth about $ 3,000.

Ernest Hemingway’s early works will always be really popular among collectors, which can also make these more difficult to find. Hemingway’s later classic novels like “The Old Man and the Sea,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “The Sun Also Rises,” are all collectible, and far easier to get a hold of since far more printings of these works were made.

That makes them less valuable money-wise, but the reading experience can’t be beat.

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Thanks for reading!

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