An extensive Ernest Hemingway collection compiled by a Mississippi physician was donated to the University of South Carolina Columbia and put on display at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library for a special showing earlier this week.
Edgar Grissom, the 70-year-old collector and donor, has worked for more than 50 years in his quest to compile all of Hemingway's English-language publications. He likened his pursuit to "an Easter egg hunt", but now, at the end of his journey, he is delighted to assert that he has "the most complete collection of primary works in existence."
William Rivers, chairman of USC's English department, agrees. "It provides a tremendous resource. It makes writing real in a very powerful way," Rivers said. "There is no other place in the world now where scholars can go to look at Hemingway's primary materials."
This—to provide an institution, and thereby students and scholars, with an extensive collection that would allow for further research on Hemingway—was Grissom's intention all along. He was smitten with Hemingway after reading The Green Hills of Africa, and began seriously collecting in his 2os when he was still a medical student. Last year he published his own bibliography of Hemingway's work. It wasn't always an easy road, though, and Grissom encountered opposition from a number of research libraries and museums he tried to work with over the years.
"I could give you story after story of Hemingway scholars who told me to get lost," Grissom said. "They didn't think an amateur had any business doing this."
Professors and scholars at USC did not discount Grissom's efforts, however, and it is because of their generosity and assistance that he chose to give the university his collection. USC could not be happier. Officials say that because the collection is so extensive and contains a number of very rare items that it "makes the school a top research center for the study of Hemingway."
Alright, let's get to the good stuff—what's in the collection? Over 1,200 copies of novels and first editions as well as an additional 2,500 items like editor's proofs, pamphlets, papers, and magazines. (The existence of many of the editor's proofs were previously unknown to collectors and scholars.) Some of the noteworthy items in the collection include a first edition of The Sun Also Rises; first and second editions of Three Stories and Ten Poems (Hemingway's first published work); three early printings of The Torrents of Spring; and first and second printings of the American edition, British edition, and other rare, early editions of In Our Time.