May 6, 2009

Q. When will William Manchester finish his trilogy, The Last Lion, of which only two volumes have been published, taking Churchill’s story only through 1940?

A. The following information currently appears on the website of Little Brown, publishers of the first two volumes of the trilogy:

“William Manchester died on June 1, 2004 at the age of 82. Manchester was a true literary lion and was the author of many important bestsellers published by Little, Brown over four decades, including biographies of Douglas MacArthur, the Rockefeller family and John F. Kennedy. His last book, about life in the Middle Ages, was A World Lit Only By Fire, and it too was a New York Times bestseller.

Manchester completed two volumes of a three-volume biography of Winston Churchill, and was well into the concluding volume when a stroke made writing impossible. In May 2004, Manchester appointed a cowriter to finish Volume 3 based on his outline and notes. Paul Reid, a prize-winning journalist who has written several features about Manchester, picked up where Manchester stopped. Everyone at Little, Brown who worked with William Manchester admired his warm and forceful personality, his grasp of the great individuals and events of our times, and his commitment to the importance of serious writing.”

Manchester’s friend, journalist Paul Reid completed The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm which was the third and final volume of the series. It was published in November of 2012. 

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Q. I would like to purchase clean uniform copies of the eight Biographic Volumes of the Official Biography (“Winston S. Churchill,” by Randolph Churchill and Sir Martin Gilbert, published in London by Heinemann and in Boston by Houghton Mifflin). Should I look for British or American editions, which ones are available, and how much should I pay? What about the Companion Volumes?

A. American editions are generally cheaper (in the USA), except for Volume 6, which had only two printings and often sell for over $100 in fine condition. The choice of American (half-buckram) vs. British (maroon sailcloth) is a matter of aesthetics, but if you ever plan to obtain the Companion Volumes you may prefer the British, since British Companions are easier to find, uniformly bound and jacketed. The American Companion Volume 5 Part 3 is an oddball, bound in British style with Houghton Mifflin spine stamping. Also, British biographic volumes have uniform dust jackets, whereas American biographic volumes switched to a different, photographic jacket for Volumes 6-7-8.

A set of American first editions, fine in dust jackets (including the elusive Volume VI, subtitled Finest Hour 1939-1941) generally costs between $300 and $500. Volumes 1-3 and 7-8 are relatively easy to find in secondhand bookshops; Volumes 4-6 are much harder and may require a Churchill specialist bookseller. First editions can be told by the date on the title page; reprints do not carry title page dates.

A set of British first editions, fine in dust jackets, costs around the same as the American, though perhaps less in Britain, where volumes can sometimes be found for £15 or so in secondhand shops. The publisher kept all eight biographic volumes in print for a long time, but now Volumes 5 and 8 have gone out of print, so these will become increasingly valuable on the secondhand market.

There are two kinds of non-uniform editions. In the USA, Literary Guild editions exist for Volumes 1-3 (the latter volume comes in two parts). These are shorter, squatter, thicker, and not printed on as fine a paper. They should not cost you more than a few dollars apiece. In Britain, Heinemann published “Popular Editions” of Volumes 6-8. Though the same size as the standard editions, they have cheaper hard paper bindings, lack the color frontispiece and stained top page edges, and have photographic dust jackets. In contrast, the British Heinemann uniform editions have maroon sailcloth bindings, color frontispieces and two-color title pages, and uniform dust jackets with the Churchill coat of arms on the front. There are also British paperback editions, which are not recommended; these are hefty tomes, and paperbacks don’t hold up under continued usage.

 Companion Volumes to each biographic volume were also published. These contain all the relevant documents relating to the main volumes, and number 15 to date: three each for Volumes 2, 4 and 5; two each for Volumes 1 and 3, and two so far for Volume 6. The latter, published by Heinemann in London and Norton in the USA, are entitled The Churchill War Papers and continue the companion volume series through 1941. A third “War Papers” is in the works, which will complete the companions to Volume 6. It will be followed by four more “War Papers” corresponding to Volume 7 (1942/43/44/45) and, hopefully, three volumes of “Peace Papers” corresponding to Volume 8. When complete the Official Biography will number eight main and 23 companion volumes, 31 books in all. It is already in Guinness as the longest biography ever written.

Both British and American Companion Volumes are increasingly scarce. Companions to Volume 1 are still fairly common, Volumes 2/3 less so; Volumes 4/5 are rare. Companions to Volume 5, published in three huge parts of over 1500 pages each, now sell for $200-400 apiece, when available at all. Most copies are being hoarded to make up complete sets (23 volumes to date), which Churchill specialist booksellers sometimes offer at $1400 and up.

Sir Martin Gilbert’s former researcher Dr Larry Arnn, as president of Hillsdale College republished the offical biography which is available from Hillsdale Press. 

Q. Churchill’s first volume of The History of the English Speaking Peoples includes information about the American Civil War. When did Churchill first visit the Civil War Battlefields?

A. October 1929 

Q. ‘Our long months of preparation and planning for the greatest amphibious operation in history ended on D-Day’ are the first words in which of Churchill’s books?

A. Triumph and Tragedy, Volume VI of Churchill’s The Second World War.

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