The Old Man and the Sea (First Edition) by Ernest Hemingway



2015-06-26 10:26:36

The Old Man and the Sea is the last major fictional work published by American author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in his lifetime. The first edition of this work was published in 1952 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Background

Hemingway owned a fishing boat called Pilar. His fishing trips in the gulf stream were what influenced this novel, and his real life fishing adventures gained notoriety themselves. He was even contributing scientific research at this time. He caught record breaking fish, including several huge marlin.

Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea in 1951. Once published, five million copies were sold in just two days. The book made him a celebrity. He wanted to use the story to demonstrate the nobility of struggle. It was also heavily influenced by the Bible, and its relation to modern day life. The work invoked a reappraisal of all of Hemingway’s writing, and led to his status as a classic modern writer. The Old Man and the Sea had a great part to play in the choice to award Ernest Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The novel’s focus is an old fisherman named Santiago, and his epic battle with a giant marlin fish in the Gulf stream. Santiago, despite a lifetime’s experience as a fisherman, has not caught a fish in 84 days. He is considered unlucky by the entire community.

One day he takes his boat very far out into the gulf, and a marlin takes his bait. It is so giant he is unable to reel it in, and in fact it begins to pull his boat. Santiago feels a kinship with the fish and admires him as an adversary. As the fisherman is bearing the tension of the fishing line with his own body, he is exhausted, and soon the fish becomes tired as well.

Santiago stabs the marlin with his harpoon, and sets out to take it home. But on the return journey the blood from the harpooned fish attracts sharks, which Santiago desperately wards off and kills. But more and more sharks attack and eat the entire marlin, which is hanging from the side of the boat.

Santiago returns home with a skeleton. He sleeps while the community admire the remains of the marlin, and dreams of his youth.

Themes include national identity, immigration and religion.


Hemingway is considered a classic modernist American writer. He won the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature, but tragically committed suicide in 1961.

See main article: Ernest Hemingway rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

Christie’s New York sold first edition presentation copies for $11,400 in June 2005 and $13,800 in April 1994.

Sothebys sold first edition copies for £11,750 in November 2001, and $164,800 in November 2004.

Restoration of Hemingway first editions is not recommended. First edition copies are worth infinitely more in their original cloth bindings and dust jackets, especially when these are in good condition. Presentation copies, or copies with Hemingway’s autograph, are much more valuable.

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