The papers started arriving in Boston 40 years ago, when library officials stored them in a dark vault where they could control temperature and humidity levels. But that didn't keep iron gall ink, a corrosive and once-common writing agent, from eating through the paper some of the letters came on. It also couldn't reverse mold growth or repair rodent nibbles on letters that spent years in storage in humid spots like Key West or Cuba.
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Letters penned on acidic paper also began falling apart as their fibers aged. There are so many things that have happened to them," Wrynn said. Among letters needing repair are some from the writer's family, childhood cronies, and war and fishing buddies. Besides two of Bergman's letters, correspondence from Hollywood stars Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper will undergo work, as well.
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Also slated for restoration are letters from Max Perkins, Hemingway's editor at Scribner's, and correspondence from writers Gertrude Stein, Walter Winchell and Martha Gellhorn, the journalist who became the author's third wife. World War I-era dispatches from Agnes von Kurowsky, the Red Cross nurse upon whom Hemingway based his Catherine Barkley character in "A Farewell to Arms," also need saving from extensive mold, water and corrosive ink damage.
Handling the letters that belonged to the Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer while boxing them for transport to the lab is a task library officials undertake with a focus and reverence worthy of holy relics.
Among the next batch of letters that will head to the lab this fall will be four Western Union telegrams F. Scott Fitzgerald sent Hemingway from to In two of them, the writer talks about plans to visit his friend in Key West. A note on the telegram, believed to be handwritten by Hemingway's second wife Pauline Pfeiffer, showed Fitzgerald's suggestion was met with a return wire expressing regrets.
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