July 4, 2013



Mr. Cohen has been a contributor to Finest Hour, since the mid-1980s. His 2006 Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, (see “Total Immersion in the Cohen Bibliography,” FH 133) was celebrated at a reception at Canada House, London, last February, from which his remarks are derived. Along with his following notes on states, editions and issues, Ron now renews our bibliography column, formerly known as “Woods Corner.”


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Your Excellencies, my Lords and Ladies, Parliamentarians past and current, guests of the Canadian High Commissioner, this is indeed an extraordinary honour for me, an honour both of time and place.

As to the first, while I was certain that my Churchill Bibliography would appear, there were, shall I say, moments when that optimism was tempered with high doses of reality, particularly when one of my close friends in Ottawa asked regularly for the last decade whether we were actually going to see this book in our lifetime. Some here this evening have followed the slow progress of the three volumes and 2183 pages over the last twenty years, and may have had similar doubts. Permit me to say immediately that the Bibliography would not have come to fruition without the help of the many individuals in my acknowledgments, and Wendy and I are so very pleased to have the opportunity of celebrating the work here at Canada House.

As to the second—the place—not only is Canada House at the top of the street where Parliament sits, the building in which the distinguished career of Britain’s longest-serving Parliamentarian began, and in which he left his oratorical shadow; but it is also where this bibliographical odyssey began.

London is where I lived and worked as the life of Sir Winston Churchill ebbed and the nation and world sent him to his rest in the country churchyard at Bladon. And it was to London and England that I frequently returned to build this work. In this great nation, the British Library and its Newspaper Division at Colindale (for a time I had a reserved seat on the Northern Line), the Local Studies Libraries at Oldham, Dundee and Ilford, other great public and institutional collections, and private collections of rarities such as that of Lord Bath at Longleat, yielded bibliographical artifacts and secrets: none more than the greatest Churchillian archival resource, namely, the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.

And nowhere has there been a more significant published resource for Churchillian information than the magisterial and monumental official biography of Sir Winston, carried forward since 1968 by the indomitable and prolific Sir Martin Gilbert. Once long out of print, it is even now being relaunched by the Hillsdale College Press in the United States.

Returning to the Bibliography, one might ask, why so long? That was Churchill’s doing. He wrote so much and so well! This led inexorably to more writings and more editions of his works. Of the former, sadly, there are no more; of the latter, happily, an unending stream. As Lady Soames wrote in her introduction to the Bibliography, “I, of course, did not understand till later—when my mother impressed it upon me—that my father earned his living, indeed our family’s living, by his pen, and that our domestic economy at certain periods survived precariously from article to article and book to book.”

Depending on how you count, Sir Winston wrote fifty-four volumes between 1898 and 1958; of these, thirty remain in print in 2007. And new translations into Czech, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and even Catalan have been published since 2000.

Speaking of the rest of the world, my research has taken me all around it. In the National Library in Seoul, a patient English-speaking librarian tried to explain to a Western-trained lawyer sensitive to copyright issues how two different contemporaneous Korean translations, one in eight volumes and one in twelve, could co-exist. In Taipei, chief birthplace of “pirated” Churchillian works, I was challenged for trying to take a photograph of the front cover of a volume I knew I would not see again.

In the National Library in Budapest, I was taken into a back room that included raw and other material unsuitable for the proletariat in order to consult the 1971 Hungarian abridged edition of The Second World War. In Prague, although Churchill’s speech volumes were in the Czech National Bibliography for the 1940s, they had become verboten in the card catalogue pre-1989. Eventually, when I returned to Prague following Glasnost, all of those works came out of hiding and were spread on a private table for me to consult.

In Dundee, Temperance candidate Edwin Scrymgeour’s archives yielded bibliographically significant rarities, as well as an eight-page pamphlet entitled What Mr Winston Churchill Will Do for Dundee, in which the seven pages following the title are blank!

The pursuit of Churchill’s writings was invigorating. Here after all was the winner of a Nobel Prize for Literature: a deft, bright, sparkling writer of history, and one who knew of what he wrote, among other things, as the only holder of high Cabinet office in the great democracies in both world conflagrations, and a son of an American mother and an English father. The Nobel citation included the following words:

Churchill’s political and literary achievements are of such magnitude that one is tempted to resort to portray him as a Caesar who also has the gift of Cicero’s pen. Never before has one of history’s leading figures been so close to us by virtue of such an outstanding combination.

My responsibility as a bibliographer was to be thorough. To do my job properly, I needed to locate all published material written by Churchill, whether in his own works, in newspapers, magazines and journals, and in volume works of other authors. I was committed to identify all editions, issues, states, printings and translations of each of his works and, of course, to describe these bibliographically. And then I must tell the story of the circumstances of publication of as many of these as I could, so that users could dip into, say, the entry for The Story of the Malakand Field Force and learn of Churchill’s determination to write his first book (on the Northwest Indian frontier campaign) in order, at the tender age of 23, to secure some political advantage. It includes the story of the headlong (and ultimately unnecessary) rush to beat Lord Fincastle’s book on the same subject to market, and the disastrous proofreading of the work by his uncle, Moreton Frewen (described by some as “Mortal Ruin”), while the author was in India.

Under the annotations for all of the early works, we learn of Churchill’s enthusiasm for his own writing. Of his only novel, Savrola, for example, he wrote on April 25, 1898:

It is a wild and daring book tilting recklessly here and there and written with no purpose whatever, but to amuse. This I believe it will do. I have faith in my pen. I believe the thoughts I can put on paper will interest & be popular with the public.

And then, in his autobiographical work, My Early Life, published in 1930, he contradicted that view of Savrola, claiming there that he had “consistently urged [his] friends to abstain from reading it.” In the Bibliography, the annotations include Churchill’s own views on the 1956 teleplay that ran on American television, and starred his daughter Sarah.

The story of Lord Randolph Churchill is there, and the huge amount of the advance Churchill received from Macmillan, £8,000 (the equivalent of more than £570,000 today), as well as the process of letting down Charlie Longman, Churchill’s publisher until then. There is the Ian Fleming link to The Second World War. And so on.

The coverage is extensive, more than twice as many works by Churchill in volume, pamphlet or leaflet form as had previously been noted, more than quadruple the number of periodical appearances.

The truth is that the work needed the time it took. I am reminded, though, of the tale of the exemplary Bibliography of Bertrand Russell, authored by Canadian Ken Blackwell of McMaster University and the late Harry Ruja of San Diego State University. A couple of years before Routledge published the three-volume work (in 1994), when Ken and Harry had already been working on the bibliography for over twenty-five years, and Harry was already over eighty years old, Ken said, “I think we have been at this for long enough, Harry. Let’s publish it.”

Harry’s reply was classic and laconic: “What’s the rush?”

Now that it is done, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s telling observation on receiving the Sunday Times Literary Award in 1949:

As an author, I can speak about the difficulties and dangers of writing a book. I have written a great many, and when I was 25 years old, I had, I believe, written as many books as Moses. I have almost kept up that pace since. Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy, and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to become reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him about to the public.

I am now ready personally to fling the Bibliography about to the public and I am grateful to you for sharing this moment with Wendy and me and to the High Commissioner for the opportunity to do so in your presence.


In describing the 333 Section A main entries in my Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, I frequently use the terms edition, issue, state or printing, from time to time in combined form. Thus, for example, Al.l.a is the “First edition, home issue, only printing, first state” of The Story of the Malakand Field Force. What, you may ask, is the difference between each of the terms?


An edition consists of all the copies of a book printed from one setting of type (whether from printing plates, offsetting or other more modern techniques). All the printings from a particular typesetting are a part of that edition, whether the first, second or nth printing, even if they occur twenty years later.

What collectors are thinking of when they refer to a “first edition” is technically the first printing of the first edition. There may also be more than one issue of a single edition, as the American (Houghton Mifflin), Canadian (Thomas Allen) and Book-of-the-Month Club issues of the first edition of The Second World War (Cohen A240). More on the subject of issues anon…

Although publishers frequently refer to a second, third or nth edition on the title page verso, their calling the volume a new edition does not make it that. A new edition requires significant new typesetting to “earn” that designation. Minor corrections, even ten or twenty of them in a 300-page work, do not constitute sufficient new typesetting to amount to a new edition.

Thornton Butterworth’s The World Crisis (Cohen A69.2), which received no more than incidental editorial changes, is a classic example of an exaggerated—and incorrect (bibliographically speaking)—designation by the publisher. The so-called new “editions” are nothing more than new printings, and they are so designated in my bibliography. Thus, the last printing of Volume I (1911-1914), styled by the publisher “Third edition, fifth printing” is only the “First British edition, Volume I, eighth printing” (Cohen A69.2(I).j).

On the other hand, although the text of The Gathering Storm was not significantly changed from its notorious 1948 small typeface (Cohen A240.4(I).a) to the more legible 1949 typeface (Cohen A240.4(I).d), it was entirely reset. Consequently, the 1949 incarnation was truly a new edition.


A printing or impression—the terms are interchangeable—consists of all the copies printed at one time, i.e., without removing the type or plates (or equivalent) from the press. The first printing is usually the collector’s desideratum of a first edition, although it may not be the author’s definitive text. Consider, for example, the Malakand Silver Library edition —technically the “Second edition, Silver Library issue,” since there was also a Colonial Library issue of that work— (Cohen A1.3.a,), in which the many egregious and minor proofreading errors of the first edition were corrected; or the Cassell edition of The Second World War (Cohen A240.4), which reflected all of the Churchillian overtakes of final revises, etc., that had not been reflected in the Houghton Mifflin first edition (Cohen A240.1).


The most misunderstood and most abused bibliographical terms are “issue” and “state.” In inaccurate hands, “first issue” and “first state” are used interchangeably to designate something “early” (and, therefore, frequently worthy of a high price). Correctly applied, “issue” and “state” occur only within a single printing.

States result when the printed pages of some copies of a single printing are altered, either during the course of printing or swiftly thereafter. A stop-press correction of, say, one or more words creates a new state: the first state with the original reading, and the second state with the emended reading. The correction may be accomplished by a cancellation, that is, by removing a leaf and inserting an amended replacement leaf, which is called a “tip-in” or cancellans.

There can be no second state unless there is a first state. And there can be no first state unless there is a second state.

Issues are created by an alteration of the pages—affecting the conditions of publication or sale—of some copies of a printing. Usually, issues result from title-page alterations. The Colonial Library Savrola was published both with the Longmans Green title page for general colonial distribution (Cohen A3.3.a) and separately with a Copp Clark title page for sale in Canada (Cohen A3.4).

In designating priority, there can be no second issue without a first issue.—and no first issue without a second issue. That being said, there may be simultaneous, but separate issues, as in the case of the American and Canadian issues of The Second World War (Cohen A240.1 and A240.2 respectively), both published on 21 June 1948.

In an unusual example, one finds both states and issues resulting from textual correction. Hugh Martin’s Battle (Cohen ¥40), which required the replacement of page 12, is found in a first state (F40.1.a), with the legally offensive text on page 12; in a second state (F40.1.b), that saw the offensive text replaced by a cancellans (which is replacement leaf 11/12); and in a new issue (F40.2), in which the reset leaf is integral.


Different cloths or cloth colors, or changes in the stamping, have no bearing on edition, printing, state or issue. Binding variants are simply that—variants. It may be possible to determine the priority of a particular binding variant used for part of printing, but bindings have no necessary connection with text. Binding issues are possible: for example, parts of a printing may be bound in paper and cloth (fig. 7) to create binding issues, as in the case of The People’s Rights (Cohen A31). But this term is potentially treacherous and should be applied with care.


A dust jacket—which may be more valuable than the book it accompanies—has no bearing on the edition, printing, state, or issue. Note, though, that there may be new issues of jackets themselves, even where there has been but a single printing of the volume (but where sales have perhaps trickled over a period of time).

See, for example, the case of the dust jackets wrapping the second (one-volume) edition of Lord Randolph Churchill (Cohen A17.4) or the British issue of the first edition of Stemming the Tide (fig. 8, Cohen A264.1). What is particularly troublesome is that there is no way to determine that the dust jacket now on a volume was always on that volume. Jackets should not be, but are occasionally, swapped. The description of a book and its dust jacket are independent of each other. 


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