The Old Man and the Sea is still in demand 60 years after its original publication. Ernest Hemingway’s novel was published in September 1952 and last month AbeBooks.com sold a signed first edition of this famous book for $18,500.
The Old Man and the Sea was Hemingway’s final work published during his lifetime. The $18,500 price is a record for a Hemingway sale on AbeBooks and it was August’s third most expensive sale on the site.
The story was originally published in Life Magazine on September 1, 1952 and the book version followed on September 8. It has been reported that Life sold five million copies of that particular issue.
The book, dedicated to Hemingway's literary editor, Maxwell Perkins (who also edited F Scott Fitzgerald’s works), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature a year later. The Old Man and the Sea is a short book and tells the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his battle to land a marlin. Most of the story is the fisherman’s monologue while alone in the boat.
The copy sold by AbeBooks.com was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons. This first edition, first printing originally cost $3. The book was inscribed by Hemingway “with very best wishes, Ernest Hemingway, Keywest/1958.”
August’s most expensive sale on AbeBooks was from the 15th century. Mystere de la Vengeance de Notre Seigneur by French poet Eustache Mercade sold for $20,000 and it is a medieval mystery play about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans during the Jewish War of AD 66-70.
Other notable sales in August included a 13th century bible in Latin, a first edition of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence from 1920 sold for $9,000 and a set of signed books from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series sold for $7,000.
1. Mystere de la Vengeance de Notre Seigneur by Eustache Mercade - $20,000
Published in 1491 in Paris by Antoine Verard, this first edition lacks 16 leaves, but only one complete copy is known to exist, in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. The sale also included a letter by French bibliographer Amedee Boinet, who confirms the exceptional rarity of this book.
2. A 13th century Latin bible – $19,314
Written on vellum and produced in Paris around 1250. A beautiful handwritten manuscript with decorations in the margins and initials in red and blue. Rebound with 16th century leather with one remaining clasp.
3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway - $18,500
Published in 1952, this first edition was inscribed by the author "with very best wishes, Ernest Hemingway, Keywest/1958." 4. The Savoy Cocktail Book by Harry Craddock - $9,500
A first edition, published in 1930 by Constable & Company, Ltd, of this famous Art Deco cocktail book. The book was inscribed “Here's How! ‘Harry Craddock'/ ‘To Bert‘ October 12, '31.” Bound in burgundy morocco by the famous English bookbinders Sangorski & Sutcliffe.
5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton - $9,000
First edition, first printing published in 1920 by Appleton. The first issue dust jacket had been professionally restored.
6. Notes on the Colors of the National Guard, with some Incidental Passages of the History of the Regiment - $8,000
An American civil war regimental history of the 7th New York National Guard; limited issue (three of 67) published in 1864. Illustrated with 15 mounted albumen photographs of veterans, and numerous patriotic vignettes within the text.
7. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan - $7,000
A set of 12 books - all signed first editions from Jordan’s Wheel of Time series - The Eye if the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams and The Gathering Storm.
8. L' Art du Trait de Charpenterie par le Sieur Nicolas Fourneau, Maitre Charpentier Rouen, Ci-Devant Conducteur de Charpente et Démonstrateur du Trait à Paris by Nicholas Fourneaux -$6,666
Published in four parts between 1767 and 1772, and bound in two uniform red half leather bindings. An extremely rare complete set of first editions. In the first three books Fourneaux describes methods to calculate and design complex carpentry and woodwork. The fourth part deals almost exclusively with geometry and projection.
9. Les Illustrations de Gaule et Singularitez de Troye, par Maistre Jean Le Maire de Belges, avec la Couronne Margaritique et Plusieurs Autres Oeuvres de luy, non Jamais Encore Imprimées by Jean Lemaire de Belges - $6280
A retelling of the Trojan legend, illustrated by Jean Lemaire de Belges, published in 1549.
10. De la Puissance légitime du Prince sur le Peuple, et du Peuple sur le Prince by Hubert Languet and Philippe de Mornay - $6,162
Originally written in Latin by Estienne Junius Brutus and translated later into this first French edition in the late 16th century, this book discusses individual freedom and the rights of peoples against royalty.