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Boston and Beyond

July 22, 2013

Scrapbooks give peek inside Hemingway's early life

BOSTON (AP) — Long before Ernest Hemingway first wrote a story, his mother was busy writing about him.

Grace Hall Hemingway started a series of scrapbooks documenting the childhood of the future Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner by describing how the sun shone and robins sang on the day in July 1899 when he was born.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is making the content of five Hemingway scrapbooks available online for the first time, giving fans and scholars the chance to follow the life of one of the 20th century’s literary greats from diapers to high school degree.

Hemingway Collection curator Susan Wrynn said much of the content hasn’t been made available to the public before and only a few researchers have seen it in its entirety. The fragile leather-bound volumes have been kept in a dark vault for about four decades to keep them from falling apart.

The release of these records from the archive, home to 90 percent of existing Hemingway manuscript materials, will come on what would have been the scribe’s 114th birthday.

“I think it will be a very rich resource for people interested in learning about this period of his life,” Sean Hemingway, the author’s grandson, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “He had tremendous talent. It must have been there from the beginning. So I’m sure there are clues in there to that.”

Pennsylvania State University professor Sandra Spanier, who is general editor of a project that will publish Hemingway’s letters in more than a dozen volumes, said the scrapbooks that the author’s mother created offer details of his daily life up until age 18 that aren’t anywhere else.

“She almost made their lives into a story ... and I think that carries over into his life and his fiction,” she said.

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