American writer and war correspondent Ernest Hemingway. ((Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images))

Cuba has digitized thousands of documents that writer Ernest Hemingway kept at his Cuban home, making them available electronically for the first time on Monday.

The trove being opened up to scholars includes letters, photographs, books and an unpublished epilogue to Hemingway's novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

All were documents the writer of To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea had left at his home Finca Vigia near Havana, where he lived from 1939 to 1960.

Cuba has so far digitized 3,197 pages and organized them electronically so that academics can see the works.

The first request, from a journalism professor in Spain seeking correspondence between Hemingway and Spanish author Jose Luis Castillo-Puche, arrived Monday.

The documents were digitized under a 2002 agreement between Cuban national heritage authorities and the New York-based Social Science Research Council.

A further 1,000 documents will be digitized over the next few years.

For now, scholars can see the works by requesting specific documents, but Finca Vigia plans to eventually build a computer room where visitors can view them. The documents are not available via the internet.


Interior view of the parlour of the house in Cuba where American writer Ernest Hemingway lived until 1960. ((FPG/Getty Images) )

Among the documents are coded messages Hemingway sent from his yacht, El Pilar, during the Second World War. He believed German submarines might be hiding in the area and searched the seas around Cuba in a bid to stop them.

The archive also includes unedited manuscripts, a screenplay for The Old Man and the Sea and letters Hemingway received.

"A lot of people ask, 'What was Hemingway's life in Cuba like?,"' said Ada Rosa Alfonso, director of the museum at Finca Vigia. "This answers some of those questions."

Sarah Doty, Cuba program coordinator for the Social Science Research Council, said the John F. Kennedy library in Boston also has microfilm and CD images of the collection from Cuba.

The library is expected to announce arrival of the Hemingway archive later this month.

Cuban conservationists had to restore some of the documents, which had been damaged by exposure to humidity and insects in the tropical climate.

Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream at Finca Vigia. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

The author committed suicide in July 1961, after returning to the U.S.

With files from the Associated Press