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Selected pieces  from the Grissom Hemingway collection
Selected pieces from the Grissom Hemingway collection at USC Libraries

The 'bell tolls' for USC

By Megan Sexton, msexton@mailbox.sc.edu,803-777-1421

The University of South Carolina Libraries is now home to the most complete collection of Ernest Hemingway’s published work, thanks to a newly acquired collection of more than 1,200 items of the 20th century American writer.

The comprehensive collection was put together by Dr. C. Edgar Grissom of Mississippi, who began collecting Hemingway’s work more than 50 years ago. He assembled a collection of Hemingway items that includes editions, printings and issues of books, periodical appearances, galleys, keepsakes, translations and anthologies. The collection includes some of the rarest print Hemingway titles, such as the first and second editions of “Three Stories and Ten Poems,” the first and second printings of the American edition of “In Our Time,” and the first edition of “The Sun Also Rises.” In addition, the collection includes sets of advance uncorrected proofs and salesman’s dummies.

The C. Edgar and Julie Grissom Collection, combined with the university’s other extensive Hemingway holdings, establishes USC as the premiere research center for the study of Hemingway’s print works.

“These are research collections. We get these because they are valuable to our faculty and our students for their research,” said Tom McNally, dean of University Libraries. “We don’t buy these collections to put them on the shelf. We specifically select items that are going to enhance research at the university.”

McNally said the collection, part of which is on display through Oct. 26 in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library on the USC campus, will draw scholars to Carolina from all over the world.

“We have already heard from individuals to see how soon the collection will be available for use. There has been anticipation in the research world about where this collection would settle,” McNally said.

USC’s newest Hemingway collection was put together by Grissom, who as a boy was drawn to Hemingway’s tales of fishing and big game hunting. His collecting began with Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” and continued during his military service, medical school and while practicing medicine. As his collection grew, he found editions, issues and examples of Hemingway’s work that were not recorded in standard bibliographies. He realized that no one had ever attempted to collect and examine every printing of every Hemingway title, which he believed was necessary to write a true comprehensive bibliography.

“Most of the primary work of Ernest Hemingway is available if you are willing to pay enough money for it. The fun I had was discovering the undiscovered,” Grissom said. “In that sense, I would say that my greatest contribution in the collecting world was to identify a lot of unknown items – they weren’t unknown to the booksellers but they were unknown to the scholastic world.

“It was like an Easter egg hunt and you never knew what would lie in the bush -- you just had to keep on keeping on,” he said.

While doing his research, Grissom visited all of the major repositories of Hemingway material, including USC. In 2011, Grissom’s work resulted in the publishing of “Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Biography” (New Castle: Oak Knoll, 2011). While working on the bibliography, he found a home base in USC’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, establishing relationships with McNally and the late Matthew J. Bruccoli, professor of English and collector of works by 20th century American writers, including Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This is USC’s second major acquisition made possible by the Donald C. Easterling-Edward S. Hallman Foundation. In 2001, the university acquired the Hemingway collection belonging to the late Maurice Speiser, a Philadelphia lawyer who had represented Hemingway and became an adviser to many of the world’s leading arts and literary figures in the first half of the 20th century. A gift from USC alumnus Edward Hallman was instrumental in purchasing the Speiser collection.

The acquisition of Grissom’s Hemingway collection is the realization of Hallman’s dream, offering the perfect complement to USC’s existing Hemingway holdings, McNally said.

“Edward Hallman was responsible for bringing the Speiser collection to us. He used his estate to acquire Hemingway and other modern American writers. This is exactly what he wanted to see happen. The role of the Hallman Foundation and the trustees is important to this collection,” McNally said.

The collections have put USC on the map for students and Hemingway scholars from around the world interested in learning about one of the 20th century’s most significant American writers.

“The University of South Carolina will now have the best Hemingway collection that I know of in the world, a Hemingway collection that is the most complete and most oriented to scholarly work that I know of,” Grissom said.

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Posted: 09/24/12 @ 2:00 PM | Updated: 10/06/12 @ 8:17 AM | Permalink

About the exhibit

  • “Ernest Hemingway: The Next Chapter” will be on display in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library from Sept. 25 through Oct. 26.
  • The Hollings Library is open from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. There will be special weekend hours: 2-5 p.m. Oct. 20; 1-4 p.m.Oct. 21; 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 10; and 1-4 p.m. Nov. 11.

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