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The Old Man and The Sea

By Hemingway, Ernest

This novella, only 140 pages, was first printed in it's entirety in Life Magazine Sept 1st 1952, inspiring a buying frenzy selling over 5 million copies of the magazine in just 2 days.

The story about an aging Cuban fisherman wrangling a large marlin in the gulf stream was written in 1951 in Cuba and published in 1952. In 1953 it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and led to Hemingway's nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

Man's struggle against nature is the resounding theme throughout the book as Hemingway portrays Santiago's travails as an experienced fisherman facing a dry-spell of 85 days before finally wrangling a prized marlin. Hemingway also highlights the indomitable spirit of man while illustrating his ideal of manliness and character in the strong and determined fisherman facing danger and discomfort without complaint and with resolution, both in the days it takes Santiago to kill the marlin, and as he fights off the sharks that end up destroying his prized catch before he reaches the coast. Some say that Hemingway's tale is a reflection of his own determination to prove his writing career was not over, and the portrayal of the sharks may echo the critics who had been claiming for the ten years that his writing career, after the successful release of For Whom the Bell Tolls in 1940, was over.

The book is dedicated "To Charlie Scribner And To Max Perkins," friends of Hemingway's that had passed away before the book came out. Max Perkins, who also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, died in 1947 and Scribner, who was president of the publisher Charles Scribner's Sons, died in 1952.

The last work published by Hemingway during his lifetime, signed first editions can sell upwards of $15,000 - $17,000.

First edition identification and notes

First edition print run was 50,000 copies by Charles Scribner's Sons; New York. First edition points include the Scribner "A" and colophon on the copyright page, the publisher's pale blue cloth with Hemingway's autograph stamped in blind on the upper cover & the spine lettered in silver. There should be no mention of the Pulitzer or Nobel Prize, or an ISBN number. On the inside flap of the blue-tinted dust jacket the original price of $3.00 should be listed. There are two variations of the first edition dust jacket. One has a blue tinted photo of Hemingway, and the other has an olive tinted photo; one is not thought to be better or more valuable than the other.

Other collectible or notable editions

Published around the same time as the true first edition, the Book of the Month Club editions can confuse collectors as the copyright page for each edition states “1952”. Likewise, the Book of the Month club edition also includes the “A” under the copyright information; however, the Scribner seal is not present and there is information about the printer on the bottom of the copyright page that isn’t included with the first edition. Other Book of the Month Club edition signs are an absent $3.00 price sticker on the front flap of the dust jacket, and a “Book of the Month” stamped on the top back of the dust flap. Still noteworthy collectible for collectors on a tighter budget, they typically sell for a couple hundred dollars.

Available copies: The Old Man and The Sea By Hemingway, Ernest

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