February 27, 2015

Finest Hour 161, Winter 2013-14

Page 56

By Ronald I. Cohen

Ostensibly a Silver Library Edition, the mystery book (center) bulks as thick as the first edition (left), but thicker and taller than the Silver Library or second edition (right)


I thought my analysis of scarce issues of Churchill’s first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (FH 141), had covered the waterfront until Marc Kuritz showed me another anomaly. Marc had a copy “ostensibly of a Silver Library edition, but the title page doesn’t match any Silver Library edition.” He added that the volume included an errata slip— odd, since the purpose of this edition was to correct first edition errata. Why an errata slip at all?

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Curiouser and curiouser, Marc’s errata slip was not the domestic but the more obscure Indian version. Finally, the book included a Longmans Green catalogue dated 12/97, rather than the later (expected) 3/98 catalogue.

What, he asked, were we facing?

It took some sleuthing to identify and date this anomalous and surely one-of-a-kind copy.

Its length, the title page and paper gave it away. At 336 printed pages, this was the same length as the first edition. The Silver Library (second) edition, with all its revisions, was 337 printed pages. The title page was identical to that of the first edition, down to the name of the author, Winston L. Spencer Churchill.  (The “L.” was dropped on the Silver Library title page.) Among other changes, the printed sheets were on thicker wove, not thinner laid, paper. Both the Colonial Library issue of the first edition and the Silver Library edition were printed on laid paper.

Clearly, the inside of the book was a set of first edition sheets. Why then a Silver Library case (which also differed in small respects from the final second edition cases)?

I believe that the publisher was planning the new edition and working on the design of the new binding. Remember that the second edition succeeded the first in only nine months. Longmans was seeking an entirely new look for the book, the first edition of which contained an embarrassment of errors, and the new sheets were not ready. So they used the sheets at hand—namely, the original, faulty edition.

Why then the errata slip and the catalogue? I think the binder picked up each of the pieces that he expected would be included in the final Silver Library case: a set of sheets, an errata slip (which by then was in all first edition copies), and a catalogue (it would not matter of which date; all he needed was a catalogue).

I concluded that this book was a publisher’s dummy—not a traveller’s or salesman’s dummy to take on the road, but rather an in-house model that would enable decisions to be made about the ultimate appearance of the Silver Library volume.

What about the date? I think the book was made sometime between May and October 1898—not before April, when there were no errata slips; they were printed either in the second or third week of April. The presence of an Indian errata slip suggests that time had elapsed after printing, since the slip would have had to get from the sub-continent to London, which is why I suggest no earlier than May.

It was likely no later than October, since that was the date when the transfer of sheets from the domestic issue to the Colonial Library occurred. Moreover, since the Silver Library was being planned (it was published on 1 January 1899), it would likely have been at least a few months before the production process was initiated.

Since the catalogue included was an earlier one (12/97), this book was presumably assembled at a relatively early date in the May-October period, when copies of the 12/97 catalogue had not yet been totally exhausted.

A curiosity, to be sure, this is likely to be one-of-a-kind—the kind of piece that keeps collectors vigilant.


Mr. Cohen received The Churchill Centre’s Farrow Award for his Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill (2006). The author of our Bibliography column, he is co-founder and president of the Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa and a senior fellow on the faculty of Public Affairs, Carleton University.

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