Farewell to Arms was Hemingway’s fifth published work.  The books that came before included: Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), In Our Time (1925), Torrents of Springtime,The Sun Also Rises (1926), and Men Without Women (1927) (Ernest Hemingway Foundation, 2008).  It has been said that the book is autobiographical in nature.  The main character’s life reflects much of what Hemingway experienced during his time in World War I.

In the book, Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver, is injured and sent to a hospital in Milan.  There he meets and falls in love with an American nurse named Catherine.  Once he is healed, Henry is sent back into the fight.  However, the Italians lose ground to the Germans and retreat.  Henry is pulled in for questioning in the death of another soldier, but rather than go in for a questioning in which he will be executed, he escapes and meets back up with the now pregnant Catherine.  The pair of them escape to Switzerland.  The novel ends with Catherine’s delivery of a stillborn baby and her death in childbirth (Hemingway, 1929).

By the time that Hemingway wrote this book, he was well known for his short, but powerful, sentence structure.  The “staccato” sentences were seen by some as, “an effort at reproducing universal conversational habit” (Hutchinson, 1929).  Hemingway had also previously written about World War I in In Our Time.   A Farewell to Arms was begun as a serial in Scribner’s magazine, which was consequentially banned in Boston due to the salacious nature of the story (Princeton, 2002).  The book was adapted to the stage in 1930 and then to film in 1932, with a remake in 1957 (Wikipedia, 2014).

I chose A Farewell to Arms because I own a first edition.  My copy of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was a gift to me from my aunt when I graduated from college.  It has been treasured by me since I received it seven years ago.  In my final semester as an undergraduate, I had taken an American Literature course in which we read several of Hemingway’s works.  The gift of one of his original works was timely.


I will first discuss Ernest Hemingway himself.  Then the historical context into which the book was written.  I will then discuss the publisher information, before covering individual aspects of the book.



Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park Illinois on July 21, 1899.  His father Clarence was a doctor and his mother Grace was a music teacher.  They followed the Congregational Church and were deeply religious.  Hemingway’s father Clarence was an avid outdoors man.  He instilled a love of nature in young Ernest.  Clarence also gave medical care to those who could not afford it.  Due to damage in her eyes from Scarlet Fever, Grace Hemingway had given up her childhood ambition of being an opera singer.  Instead, she taught music and voice lessons.  Rather striking for the time, Grace often earned more money than Clarence did and refused to cook or do housework.  Ernest’s sister Marcelline was 18 months his elder.  This did not stop their mother from dressing the two alike and passing them off as twins.  Marcelline was even held back in school so that the two could enter first grade together.  Sometimes Grace dressed them both as boys, sometimes as girls (Bloom, 2002).

The summer after Ernest graduated from high school he moved to Kansas City and became a reporter for the Star.  Due to the shortage of men caused by World War I, Ernest was hired, despite being only 17, for fifteen dollars a day (Bloom).  It was at the Star that Hemingway learned, “the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing.  I’ve never forgotten them.” (Bloom, 2002, p. 16).  The rules that Hemingway learned became part of his iconic writing style.  The assistant editor, C.G. Wellington gave Hemingway the Star style sheet with 110 items including, “Use short sentences.  Use short first paragraphs.  Use vigorous English, not forgetting to strive for smoothness”  (Bloom, 2002, p. 16).

Figure 1

In 1918, when he became 18, Hemingway volunteered to be an ambulance driver for the Red Cross.  After a short time in Italy, Hemingway felt that he needed more action than being an ambulance driver afforded him.  So he volunteered for canteen duty.  In canteen duty, volunteers waited behind the trenches with cigarettes, coffee, soup and candy.  These were given to soldiers on their breaks.  Hemingway would then ride his bike with supplies to the trenches, sometimes staying and chatting with the Italian soldiers.  On July 8th, he was in a trench when a mortar exploded.  Hemingway was wounded in the legs.  Despite his injury, he carried another wounded soldier on his back to the first aid station, 150 yards away.  While running, Hemingway was shot in the legs by an Austrian shooter, but continued running carrying the soldier (Bloom, 2002).  In the hospital, 28 fragments were removed from his legs.  Hemingway was transferred to the Red Cross hospital in Milan.  It was here that he met a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky.  He fell in love with Agnes, expecting to marry her when the war was over.  However, after he returned to the US, Agnes sent him a letter in which, she told him that she was marrying someone else (Bloom, 2002).  The details of Hemingway’s injury have been contested multiple times and the story changes depending upon which source is referred to.  Bloom’s version is the one I have chosen to follow because it was the story that Hemingway touted.  It has been suggested that he did not save another man’s life, nor did he run nearly as far as claimed, but those are details in which the truth has been lost to history (Bloom, 2002).

In 1921, Hemingway married Hadley Richardson.  The two of them moved to Paris and had a son, Jack in 1922 (Palin).  During this time, Hemingway became a part of the Lost Generation, a group of ex-patriot writers and artists living in Post-War Paris.  Hemingway wrote several short stories and two novels while living with Hadley in Paris.  In 1926, the couple befriended Pauline Pfeiffer.  Hemingway, in love with both women, was forced to choose between the two.  He divorced Hadley and moved back the United States with Pauline (Crisman, 1998).

Hemingway began writing A Farewell to Arms in 1928.  By this time he was married to his second wife Pauline.  They had just moved from Paris to the Florida Keys, where, “men were adventurers, not artists” (Crisman, 1998).  Hemingway loved sportsmanship.  He loved to fish, hunt and box, earning himself the epitaph as an “Icon of super-masculinity” (Crisman, 1998).


It was in the Keys that he developed his love for marlin fishing.  He was so good at sport fishing that he won several contests, to the consternation of the locals.  He challenged any man who wanted his trophy to three rounds in the boxing ring, he won every fight.  During this time period, prohibition was also in full effect and Hemingway became a bootlegger.  He and his friends would travel to Cuba and bring rum and absinthe back to Sloppy Joe’s bar in the Keys (Crisman, 1998).

Despite his crazy adventures, Hemingway took his writing very seriously.  He would wake up at 5 am and write until early afternoon.  It was in this fashion that he wrote A Farewell to Arms, which was published as a serial in Scribner’s Magazine in the spring of 1929 (Crisman, 1998).  While Ernest was writing A Farewell to Arms, Clarence Hemingway-sick with diabetes-shot himself in his Oak Park home (Bloom, 2002).  Hemingway wrote to Pauline’s mother saying, “I’ll probably go the same way” (Crisman, 1998).  Several years later, in 1961, at his home in Ketchum Idaho, Hemingway shot and killed himself.  By that time he had published seven novels, six short stories and two works of nonfiction.  In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature for The Old Man and the Sea.  Several more books were published posthumously (Nobel, 2013).

Historical Context

A Farewell to Arms was set in the year 1917, right in the middle of World War I.  The Great War began in 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  His assassination set in motion a chain of events which culminated in a world war (Foner, 2006).  The United States didn’t enter into the War until 1917, after a telegram was intercepted in which the Germans were trying to get Mexico to invade the United States.  1917 was also the year that Vladimir Lenin led poverty stricken Russian peasants to revolt against the Czar (Foner, 2006).   World War I ended with the German surrender in 1918.  World War I was a brutal war which changed western society.  The introduction of poison gas into the fight, as well as suffering in the trenches, changed how wars were fought.  With the end of the Great War came the end of  household servants and tycoons.  A new era was ushered in.  Those who had lived through the horrors of trench warfare tried to forget, an entire generation of men was effected.

The 1920s were a decade of extremes.  The eighteenth amendment went into effect on January 1, 1920.  Prohibition was the climax of a decades long battle of the Temperance movement.  They wanted Americans to focus on God and family, believing that alcohol was evil.  This same year, women earned the right to vote with the passing of the nineteenth amendment.  Suffragists were fighting for the right to vote throughout the Western world.   1920 was the beginning of the Red Scare in America.  The United States began its war on Communism, with J. Edgar Hoover as the head of the FBI (  This was mainly because of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which had taken place within World War I.  Czar Nicholas II had been fighting a war on two fronts; one against the Germans and Austrians, one against his own people.  The Bolshevik Revolution showed the world that oppressed people had a limit and that they could topple governments.  The United States feared that disgruntled communism would spread to America, thus they fought to keep it out.

Post-War, women demanded freedoms which had hitherto been denied to them.  Along with the right to vote, women also began dressing differently, less feminine.  Many women adopted men’s styles and habits, loose fitting clothes, the discarding of corsets, smoking and drinking.  In 1921, Margaret Sanger developed the birth control pill, which gave women control over reproduction for the first time (Foner, 2006).  Labor laws were also being developed at this time, unions were forming.  In 1923, U.S. Steel implemented the first 8 hour work day.  In other ways, people were expanding the limits of acceptability.  In 1925, John T. Scopes was fined $100 for teaching the Theory of Evolution to his Tennessee class (Campbell, 2013).

In 1927 the first talking movie was released, The Jazz Singer, changing the way entertainment was created and viewed.  In that same year, the first Model T Ford was produced.  In 1928, President Herbert Hoover was elected in part thanks to his slogan, “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.”  (Campbell, 2013).  People were beginning to notice economic disparity.  In October of 1929, the Stock Market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression.  Although there had been a steady financial decline in the years prior to the crash, this was viewed as tangible evidence that the United States, and the world, was in financial ruin.

The 1920s also saw a mass exodus of American authors to Paris.  Their reasons for leaving America were as varied as the lengths of their stay.  Gertrude Stein, a contemporary of Hemingway’s, created the term the “Lost Generation.”  This referred to the alienation that many of the authors felt after experiencing the ravages of war (Wilson, 2003).  Hemingway popularized Stein’s term in his book The Sun Also Rises.  Authors who were part of the Lost Generation include: Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Zelda  and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce.  The Lost Generation had their own English language publishing world which allowed the publication of poetry, short stories and other works by these writers living in Paris  (Wilson, 2003).  Although there were other cities which were adopted by the Lost Generation, Paris was considered their capital.  One of the reasons why Paris was so attractive to them was because it was possible to live there on very little money (Mills, 1998).


lsot  lostgeneration





Publisher and Location of Publishing

A Farewell to Arms was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1929.  The publishing company began in New York as Baker & Scribner in 1846.  When Baker died in 1865, Charles Scribner bought Baker’s shares and renamed it Charles Scribner.  After Charles Scribner died, his sons John, Charles, and Arthur took over the company and bought the remaining stocks from shareholders, renaming the publishing company for a third time: Charles Scribner’s Sons.  The publishing company was bought by Macmillan in 1984, which was bought by Simon and Schuster in 1994 (Princeton, 2002).


Notable books published by the company up to the publication date for A Farewell to Arms include Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1874), 9th edition of the American Encyclopedia Britannica (1878),  A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) and The Great Gatsby (1925) both by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Princeton, 2002).  Fitzgerald sent a telegram to  Scribner’s telling them of the enormous talent of his friend Hemingway (Crisman, 1998).  They sought him out and in 1926, Ernest Hemingway published his first book with Scribner, The Torrents of Spring.  Later that year The Sun Also Rises was published with Charles Scribner’s Sons.  In 1927, Hemingway wrote  and published with Charles Scribner’s Sons Men Without Women.  In 1929, Hemingway published A Farewell to Arms with Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Title Page

Here are the Title Page and the Title Verso.  Together these elements are known as the Title Leaf.  The title page shows the title proper, who is responsible for the book and publishing information (Wikipedia, 2014).  The title verso shows any revisions which were done and also has the symbol for the Scribner Press which contains the initials C.S.S. a laurel leaf wreath a magic lamp and a book.


IMG_20140423_121616_675           IMG_20140423_121602_182

The title page indicates that my copy of A Farewell to Arms is from the 6th issue of the 1st  edition.  The story was originally published as a serial in Scribner’s Magazine between May and October of 1929.  It was first released as a book in September of 1929 with 31,000 copies.  The original editions, as well as all of the editions released since, are censored for select curse words.  Hemingway hand-wrote the words into the copy he gifted to James Joyce (Wikipedia, 2014).

Incipit and Explicit

Before the practice of title pages, an incipit, or beginning of a text, was how that text was referred to.  For example, in Hebrew the first book of the Pentateuch is called, “In the beginning,” not Genesis (Wikipedia, 2014).  Although the term is generally meant for works without title pages many poems, stories, legal codes, and even Word documents are known by their first lines (Wikipedia, 2014).  In this vein, the incipit of A Farewell to Arms is as follows, “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains” (Heminway, 1929, p.3).


Explicit means, “The closing words of a manuscript, early printed book, or chanted liturgical text”  it literally means “here ends” (Oxford, 2014).  The explicit of A Farewell to Arms is, “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.  The End ” (Hemingway, 1929, p.355).


Colophon size and format (folio, quarto, octavio, etc.)

The colophon is a “term …used to designate the emblem or device of a publishing house” (Brown, 1994, p. 43).  The colophon for the Charles Scribner’s Sons publishing company contains the initials C.S.S., a laurel wreath, the words Scribner’s Press, a magic lamp, and a book.


The book itself is 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches and just over 1 inch thick.  These measurements include the cover.  The pages appear to be folios, on sheet of paper folded in half and then gathered into quires and bound (Brown, 1994).

Here is a video which highlights the production of a quarto formatted book in the 1920s.



Collation Paper (Watermarks)

A Farewell to Arms is collated into 23 quires, meaning that the folios are arranged in groups of 10-16 pages (Brown, 1994).



The edges of the paper are deckle cut, meaning they are rough instead of smooth.  The term deckle comes from the process of making paper.  The deckle is the frame which is placed on top of a screen to drain the fiber.  Deckled edges come out of the process (Magee, 2010).  The deckled edges on this book may have another cause.  It could be that they were originally ‘uncut.’  An uncut book is one in which the pages are still connected together from the way they were folded and bound.  It was very exciting to own an ‘uncut’ book because it meant you were the first to own it.  In order to cut the pages, a sharp paper cutter was needed (Magee, 2010).  It is difficult to know if these pages are actually deckled or if they had been uncut at the time of publishing.  It is possible that they were indeed cut.  If you look at the images, the first book is A Farewell to Arms.  The page edges appear smooth despite their being uneven.  The second image is a book with actual deckled edges.  If you will, notice how the edges appear rough as well as uneven.

Although deckled and uncut pages appear almost the same, I believe that my book contains the latter.  Meaning that this book was ‘uncut’ at the time it was first bought.

.IMG_20140423_131338_416 deckle


There are no watermarks on the pages of the book, however, it is beginning to yellow with age.