Thanks to a lifelong collector who began amassing Ernest Hemingways published works more than 50 years ago, the University of South Carolina now has one of the most comprehensive and preeminent collections of the 20th century American writers work in known existence.
The body of work, which joins numerous other holdings including an already sizable Hemingway collection at the library, contains more than 2,000 Hemingway pieces everything from appearances in newspapers and magazines to galleys and proofs and pirated editions printed overseas. About 1,200 volumes alone are novels including first editions and reprints.
University officials unveiled a portion of the group of works at a special viewing Tuesday at The Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library.
Anytime you can ....say we have the finest collection of Ernest Hemingway in the world, well that makes us feel pretty good, said USCs Dean of Libraries Tom McNally on the staggering collection acquired from C. Edgar Grissom, of Hattiesburg, Miss.
A retired physician and self-described amateur collector, Grissom spent most of his life looking for books and rare finds by the famous writer known for his love of adventure and understated writing style.
It was like an Easter egg hunt, he said. It became really fun for me because I discovered a lot of new material.
With his wife, Julie, and university officials by his side Tuesday, the 70-year-old Grissom detailed just some of what drew him to Hemingways writing first as a young boy then later as an avid collector.
I often wonder and ask myself had I met Ernest Hemingway would I even have liked him? Grissom said. But the truth of the matter is I really liked his writing.
The collection, which university officials say establishes the school as the premiere research center for the study of Hemingways print works, will be housed at The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at USCs Columbia campus.
Grissom began collecting the writer in his early 20s with a first-edition purchase of Green Hills of Africa. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, Grissom realized a lot of the bibliographies in existence at the time, did not have many of the works he had collected so he set about to write his own. In 2011, the collector-turned bibliographer published, Ernest Hemingway: A Descriptive Bibliography.
Grissom attributed his affinity for USC and his friendships with those in its rare books department, where he spent a great deal of time conducting research for his book, as he reasons for giving the collection to the university.
I wanted somebody that was serious about using (the collection) and understood the potential for scholarship the exhibit potentially helped, Grissom said.
The Grissom acquisition is USCs second major acquisition made possible by the Donald C. Easerling-Edward S. Hallman Foundation. In 2001, the university acquired a collection belonging to the late Maurice Speiser, a Philadelphia lawyer who had represented Hemingway.
McNally said the use of its collections toward scholarship is what separates USCs rare books department, which has grown sevenfold in the last 25 years, from other institutions.
This is a working collection, he said. We dont want collections that are show pieces. We want collections that people ...can actually use.
In addition, USCs special collections library, built in 2008, he said, is also making it attractive to collectors like Grissom to house their collections for future study.
Ernest Hemingway is not going away, Grissom said. Ive had my doubts about that from time to time.... But as a 20th century American author, hes going to be around for awhile.
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