Cambridge publishes first volume of Hemingway’s collected letters

Melissa Beattie-Moss
November 27, 2011

Patrick Hemingway has said of his famous father, “Ernest Hemingway was a prodigious letter writer. His correspondence has been the principal source for his biographers, none of whom to date have succeeded in presenting the man as vividly as he does himself in his letters.”

The publication this fall of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway 1907-1922 (Cambridge University Press) — the first volume in a projected 16-volume set — is a historic step in making the author’s own vivid self-portrait in letters accessible for the first time.

two woman and a man holding a book together
Wilson Hutton, University Libraries

From left, a 2006 photo shows Sandra Spanier; Ernest Hemingway Mainland, from whom Penn State acquired the Hemingway correspondence; and Nancy L. Eaton, then-dean of the University Libraries and Scholarly Communications.

Edited by Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon, the complete set will contain all the surviving outgoing letters (over 6,000 in number, roughly 85 percent never published) of “Papa” Hemingway, the iconic American writer whose work played a major role in defining 20th century American literature.

In the first book’s foreword, Linda Patterson Miller (chair of the collection’s Editorial Review Board and professor of English at Penn State Abington) writes, “This initial volume provides an epistolary portrait of Hemingway becoming Hemingway. It brings together the letters he wrote from his youthful days in his native Oak Park through his first year in Paris in 1922, and in so doing traces his apprenticeship as a writer.”

Spanier, professor of English and general editor of the Hemingway Letters Project, adds, “Publication of Hemingway’s collected letters will be a crucial step forward for the study of American literature and literary modernism.” Hemingway’s unguarded correspondence cuts through the stereotype of “this swaggering, macho character” and reminds the public of the complex humanity behind the icon, she notes.

Spanier’s favorite letters? “Perhaps the ones from his early years,” she says. “It’s just poignant to me to be privy to the thoughts and experiences of this person who is on the brink of his whole life opening up and feels that magnitude.”

For more on the Hemingway Letters Project, visit

For Vanity Fair's feature on the letters, see

Last Updated October 08, 2013