A legion of signatures

Imagine a book so rich in signatures that Winston Churchill’s autograph is barely of note.

Q:        What would it take to secure the signatures of 85 leading lights in British literature and the arts, as well as four prime ministers, in a single volume?

A:         It took a World War and a future King of England.

The Legion BookThe First World War is often eclipsed by the conflagrations of the latter part of the twentieth century, notably the Second World War and Cold War.  But it was the First World War that truly stunned civilization, ushering an age of inconceivable carnage and industrialized brutality.  When war came in August 1914, prevailing sentiment held that the conflict would be decisive and short.  “You will be home before the leaves have fallen from the trees,” Kaiser Wilhelm assured his troops leaving for the front.  More than four extraordinarily bloody years followed, lasting until the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  In his own history of WWI, Winston Churchill wrote: “Overwhelming populations, unlimited resources, measureless sacrifice… could not prevail for fifty months…”

The British Empire alone suffered more than 900,000 dead and two million wounded.  At the end of WWI, the pension for a totally disabled man was only 30 shillings a week and no claim could be made seven years after discharge.  In May 1921 several ex-servicemen’s organizations were amalgamated to form the Royal British Legion.  Thereafter, the Legion actively involved itself with employment and pensions for both able and disabled ex-servicemen or their dependents.

The Legion Book front cover and spineThe Legion Book rear cover and spineThe Legion Book was commissioned by the Legion’s patron, H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and, after abdication, the Duke of Windsor).  Sale proceeds were dedicated to the Legion.  The dozens of contributing artists and writers were among the most talented British subjects in their fields, including Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, P.G. Wodehouse, Aldous Huxley, Vita Sackville-West, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Augustus John, Eric Kennington, and John Nash. The book was edited by James Humphrey Cotton Minchin (1894-1966), a WWI veteran of the Cameronians and the Royal Flying Corps.  Trade editions ran to multiple printings.  There was also a 600 copy limited edition.  500 of these were signed by the editor and bound similarly to trade editions.  But “the first 100 were reserved for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, sponsor of the volume, in his gift.”

Limitation pageThese hundred were simply magnificent – printed in red and black by The Curwen Press on larger, hand-made paper, profusely illustrated, extravagantly bound in elaborate blind and gilt-tooled white pigskin.  Massive volumes, they measure 13 x 10 x 2 inches and weigh 6.6 pounds. Each copy was hand-numbered.

As impressive as the aesthetics are, more impressive still are the signatures.  These 100 magnificently bound copies were signed by a simply remarkable list of 85 writers and illustrators, as well as four prime ministers (three British Prime Ministers – David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin, and Ramsay MacDonald – and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau), and H.R.H. The Prince of Wales.  The tally is five prime ministers if you count Churchill, who signed as a contributor, but became prime minister in 1940.

So many are the signatures that they span 8 pages.  As stated at the end of the contents: “There are five pages of contributors’ signatures following the Dedication, one page opposite Collotype No. 3 and one page opposite Collotype No. 20.”  The Prince of Wales signed on the blank verso of the Dedication.

The list of signatures includes the following:

Prince Edward signatureWinifred Austen

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin

Edward Bawden

Max Beerbohn

Hilaire Belloc

Arnold Bennett

Reginald Berkeley

SignaturesLaurence Binyon

Edmund Blunden

Muirhead Bone

Robert Bridges

Arthur Briscoe

Sir D. Y. Cameron

Bliss Carman

K. Chesterton

Winston S. Churchill

Sir George Clausen

Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau

SignaturesSir Arthur Cope

E. Coppard

Edward Gordon Craig

Hamilton Crawford

Eric Fitch Daglish

H. Davies

Walter de la Mare

John Drinkwater

H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and, after abdication, the Duke of Windsor)

Jacob Epstein

J.R.G. Exley

John Galsworthy

SignaturesDavid Garnett

Mark Gertler

Eric Gill

Stephen Gooden

Lee Hankey

Aldous Huxley

Storm Jameson

Augustus John

Sheila Kaye-Smith

Margaret Kennedy

Eric Kennington

Rudyard Kipling

SignaturesDame Laura Knight

Charles Lamb

Sir John Lavery

K. Lawrence

Clare Leighton

Sir William Llewellyn

Prime Minister David Lloyd George

David Low

Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald

James McBey

C. McNeile

Sarah Gertrude Millin

SignaturesGilbert Murray

John Nash

Paul Nash

Henry Newbolt

William Nicholson

Sir William Orpen

Sir Bernard Partridge


SignaturesCharles Ricketts

Eric Rivilious

David Robertson

Heath Robinson

William Rothenstein

Albert Rutherston

Vita Sackville-West

Randolph Schwabe

Eric A. Shepherd

Sir Frank Short

One signatureEdith Sitwell


Sir Stanley Spencer

C. Squire

W. Steer


F. Tennyson Jesse

Henry Tonks

Edward Wadsworth

William Walcot

Edger Wallace

Hugh Walpole

Rebecca West

G. Wodehouse

Humbert Wolfe

LimitationWe will soon be pleased to offer an unusually fine example, copy “68”, hand-numbered thus on the limitation page.  The binding and contents are nearly flawless.

The Legion Book in caseSuperlative condition owes to the presence of the original felt-lined cloth clamshell case, with a discreet, inked “No.68” on the upper front cover.

Original bookseller descriptionBookseller labelLaid in the case is an original description of this book by noted New York bookseller Philip C. Duschnes, who died in 1970.  His tiny gilt sticker is affixed to the lower rear pastedown.

This is another installment in our preview of hoarded treasures being reserved for our forthcoming “Extra Ink” catalogue.  Expect the catalogue in  final weeks of 2018.  During the coming months our blog posts will provide a sneak peek at some of the catalogue items!

“How Lucky I was…”

This is another installment in our preview of hoarded treasures being reserved for our forthcoming “Extra Ink” catalogue.  Expect the catalogue late in 2018.  During the coming months our blog posts will give you a sneak peek at some of the catalogue items.

Eric Kennington inscriptionToday, a first trade edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdomrendered special by a poignant inscription by Eric Kennington, the man who created thirty-one of the illustrations within its pages.  Inked in blue in four lines on the half title, Kennington wrote: “How lucky I was to meet | & know this man for 14 years | Eric Kennington | August 1954”.

BookplateA gift inscription “For Phyllis” dated “Christmas 1935” is inked on the front free endpaper above the illustrated book plate of “PM Jackson”.

Christopher Kennington inscriptionA five-line inked notation on the front free endpaper verso that appears to be signed by Christopher Kennington (Eric Kennington’s son) reads: “Phyllis Jackson gave this book to | her brother, Francis Jackson. | On his death in 1980, his son Richard | gave it to me.”

Eric KenningtonEric Henri Kennington (1888-1960) was known as a painter, print maker, and sculptor and, most notably, as “a born painter of the nameless heroes of the rank and file” whom he portrayed during both the First and Second World War.

The Kensingtons at LaventieBadly wounded on the Western Front in 1915, during his convalescence he produced The Kensingtons at Laventie, a portrait of a group of infantrymen. When exhibited in the spring of 1916 its portrayal of exhausted soldiers created a sensation. Kennington finished the war employed as a war artist by the Ministry of Information. After the war, he met T. E. Lawrence at an exhibition of Kennington’s war art.

Illustration from Seven Pillars of WisdomIn 1921, Kennington traveled to the Middle East with Lawrence where, Lawrence approvingly wrote of his work, “instinctively he drew the men of the desert.” Kennington served as art editor for Lawrence’s legendary 1926 Subscribers’ Edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdomand produced many of the drawings therein.

Bust of LawrenceThat same year he produced a bust of Lawrence – an image of which is the frontispiece of this book.  On 15 February 1927, Lawrence wrote to Kennington praising the bust as “magnificent”. Lawrence said “It represents not me, but my top-moments, those few seconds in which I succeed in thinking myself right out of things.”  In 1935, Kennington served as one of Lawrence’s pallbearers.

Bust of T E LawrenceIn 1936 his second, memorial bust of Lawrence was installed in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Kennington was again an official war artist for the British government during the Second World War (Ministry of Information and Air Ministry), producing a large number of portraits of individual soldiers in addition to military scenes.  Kennington died a member of the Royal Academy six years after writing the inscription in this book.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, with which Kennington became integrally linked, is the story of T. E. Lawrence’s (1888-1935) remarkable odyssey as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, which he began as an eccentric junior intelligence officer and ended as “Lawrence of Arabia.” This time defined Lawrence with indelible experience and celebrity which he would spend the rest of his famously short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress.  Kennington first produced illustrations for the 1926 “Subscribers’ Edition” of which fewer than 200 complete copies were produced.

Another of Lawrence’s friends, Winston Churchill, wrote: “It ranks with the greatest books ever written in the English language.  If Lawrence had never done anything except write this book as a mere work of the imagination his fame would last… But it is fact, not fiction… An epic, a prodigy, a tale of torment, and in the heart of it – A Man.”

Seven Pillars of WisdomIt was only in the summer of 1935, in the weeks following Lawrence’s death, that the text of the Subscribers’ Edition text was finally published for circulation to the general public in the form of a British first trade edition. This copy inscribed by Kennington is the first printing of this British first trade edition. Condition is good, showing the aesthetic flaws of age and wear, but sound.  The khaki cloth binding is square and tight with wear to extremities, overall soiling and staining, and considerable scuffing to the rear cover. The contents are clean with toning to the page edges.  A tiny Colchester bookseller sticker is affixed to the lower rear pastedown.

Half title pageLook for this and dozens of other signed or inscribed items in our “Extra Ink” catalogue late in 2018!

Churchill and Karsh in 1941

This is another installment in our preview of hoarded treasures being reserved for our forthcoming “Extra Ink” catalogue.  Expect the catalogue late in 2018.  Over the coming months we will give you a sneak peek at some of the catalogue items in our blog posts.

Today, Yousuf Karsh, Winston Churchill, and CBC’s hometown of San Diego.

We are pleased to offer a special copy of one of the most famous photographic portraits of the twentieth century by one of the world’s most famous portrait photographers.

Karsh photo of Churchill

This is Karsh’s famous portrait of Winston S. Churchill, taken on 30 December 1941 in Ottawa, Canada.  Moment, time, photographer, and subject converged to create both an incredible image and an incredible story to match.

But first, a little local pride in the form of provenance.  As you may know, Churchill Book Collector’s library makes its home in sunny San Diego, California.  And this particular signed Karsh photo has San Diego history.

Letter from Karsh to Betty ChurchillThe photo itself is signed by Karsh in black in two lines on the lower left margin of the photo “© Y Karsh | Ottawa.” But in addition to Karsh’s signature, this photo comes with a presentation letter from Karsh typed on his Ottawa studio stationery and signed “Yousuf Karsh.”  The letter is dated “September 15, 1967” and addressed: “Mrs. Betty Churchill, Secretary to Mr. William Wagner, Vice President, Public Relations, Ryan Aeronautical Corporation, Lindbergh Field, San Diego, California.”

Karsh’s presentation letter reads: “Dear Mrs. Churchill: I could not resist the temptation of sending you one of my favourite photographs of a great man who also bears your name.  It was good to meet you, and to receive so many courtesies while I was in San Diego. With my very good wishes, Sincerely, Yousuf Karsh”.

The story of Ryan Aeronautical Corporation was important not only to San Diego, but to both the history of aviation and the Second World War.

Tubal Claude RyanTubal Claude Ryan (1898-1982) bought his first airplane, a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, in San Diego in 1922, and began his aeronautical enterprises by charging for rides. By the late 1920s his aviation ventures included the nation’s first year-round regularly scheduled daily airline passenger service.  In 1927, Ryan’s namesake company was tasked with building a single-engine plane that would be called The Spirit of St. Louis for a fellow named Charles Lindbergh.

Charles LindberghAfter Lindberg’s historic solo flight, in 1928 Ryan founded The Ryan Aeronautical Corporation. This company, among many accomplishments, built the preeminent trainer aircraft used though the Second World War, the first jet-plus-propeller aircraft for the Navy, and the first successful vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, as well as pioneering remotely piloted vehicles and jet drones, Doppler systems, and lunar landing radar.

The Ryan Aeronautical Corporation occupied a portion of what is now the San Diego International Airport – formally known as Lindbergh Field. On that site, the company’s assembly-line built airplanes during the Second World War.

Tubal Claude RyanIn 1969, just a few years after this photograph was signed and presented by Karsh, Ryan Aeronautical became Teledyne Ryan, a subsidiary of Teledyne, at an acquisition price of $128 million.  Teledyne Ryan became, in turn, part of Northrop Grumman in 1999.

Ryan himself reportedly died at the age of eighty-four while sketching a rough design concept for a plane with simplified controls.  (information sourced from the National Aviation Hall of Fame, www.ryanaero.org and http://www.charleslindbergh.com/plane/ryan.asp)

We are tickled about this photograph’s connection to both San Diego and to aviation history, not to mention a Churchill namesake.  That said, we should not let San Diego exuberance overshadow the image itself.

The subject, photographer, and moment

In the days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States formally entered the Second World War, marking the end of Britain’s solitary stand against Hitler’s Germany, which it had sustained since the fall of France. Churchill immediately decided to travel to North America, and on December 12, 1941 he boarded the battleship Duke of York and began the 10-day trip across the Atlantic – a perilous journey at a time when German U-Boats plagued the North Atlantic.

Winston ChurchillChurchill’s speech of December 26, 1941 to a joint session of the U.S. Congress was sober, resolved, and eloquently defiant, but of course also featured the sparkle of Churchillian wit, which was irrepressible even in the dark hours of the war: “I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own.” His speech was also an important personal introduction to the elected leaders he needed to embrace the alliance so vital to his nation. A few days later, in his famous “Some chicken, some neck!” speech of December 30 to both houses of the Canadian Parliament, Churchill was characteristically defiant: “When I warned them that Britain would fight alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken; some neck.”

Injected into the middle of this historic moment was 33-year-old Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002).  It was following his speech to the Canadian Parliament that Churchill was ushered to the Speaker’s Chamber, where Karsh had set up his camera and lighting equipment the night before.

Yousuf KarshBorn in Armenian Turkey, Karsh had fled on foot with his family to Syria before immigrating to Canada in 1924 as a refugee.  After apprenticing with the celebrity portrait photographer John H. Garo, Karsh moved to Ottawa, where he opened a portrait studio with the intent of photographing “people of consequence.”  His breakthrough came in 1936 when he photographed the meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King. After that assignment Karsh became a regular photographer with the Canadian government.  But it was Karsh’s photo of Churchill on 30 December 1941 that brought him his first international fame.

“…I approached Winston Churchill in 1941 with awe… But as a photographer I had a job to be done and it must be done far too fast.  Mr. Churchill… was in no mood for portraiture and two minutes were all he would allow me… two niggardly minutes in which I must try to put on film a man who filled the world with his fame, and me, on this occasion, with dread.  He marched in scowling, and regarded my camera as he might regard the German enemy.  His expression suited me perfectly, if I could capture it, but the cigar thrust between his teeth seemed somehow incompatible with such a solemn and formal occasion.  Instinctively I removed the cigar.  At this the Churchillian scowl deepened, the head was thrust forward belligerently, and the hand placed on the hip in an attitude of anger.  So he stands in my portrait in what always seemed to me the image of England in those years, defiant and unconquerable.  With a swift change of mood, he came towards me when I was finished, extending his hand and saying, ‘Well, you can certainly make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed.’” (Karsh, Faces of our Time, p.38)

Karsh titled the image “The Roaring Lion.”  It appeared on the cover of Life magazine and established Karsh’s international reputation. In some ways, the image also can be said to have helped make Churchill; more than any other image, Karsh’s portrait of Churchill stands as the definitive portrayal of his character.

Karsh went on to photograph an incredible array of the world’s most prominent personalities, including royalty, statesmen, artists, and writers.  His portraits have come to represent the public images of major figures of twentieth century politics, science, and culture.  Karsh also published numerous books as portfolios of his portrait photographs.  He did not close his Ottawa studio until June 1992, at the age of 83.

The Photograph

This silver gelatin photograph was printed by Karsh’s studio on bright, lustrous paper and mounted by the studio on heavy stock stamped by Karsh’s studio on the verso. A plate mark impressed by Karsh’s studio surrounding the image gives the image further depth. The sheet measures 13.5 x 11.56 inches (34.3 x 26.9 cm), the image 9.43 x 7.5 inches (24 x 19 cm).

Karsh's signaturePrinting date is established by the letter and the fact that Karsh stopped signing his photos with “Ottawa” in the late 1960s. The image verso bears the studio stamp of Karsh’s Ottawa studio reading “COPYRIGHT | the following copyright must be used | © Karsh, Ottawa” as well as a penciled “P of G” notation referring to the image’s inclusion in Karsh’s book Portraits of Greatness(1959).

Framed Karsh photo of Churchill Letter from Karsh, on reverse of frameWe deliberately chose not to frame in the conventional manner, with the photo matted and framed beside the letter.  The photo is simply too striking an image to warrant the aesthetic distraction of the letter right beside it.  Instead, we commissioned a custom, double-sided frame using museum quality, archival materials. The solid walnut frame is stained dark black with a thick 8-ply rag board mat for added depth and richness and is glazed with UV filtering acrylic. On the reverse the letter has also been matted and glazed. The framed piece measures 17.375 x 15.375 inches (44.1 x 39 cm).

A fight at CBC!

Churchill the boxerThere’s been a fight among staff here at CBC.

We’ve been hoarding a trove of signed and inscribed material.  Some of us want to hold on until the end of the year for our forthcoming “Extra Ink” catalogue.  Some of us don’t want to make our customers wait.  Since we’re poor pugilists, we’ve compromised.  We’ll reserve roughly 40 signed or inscribed items for the catalogue.  But, over the coming months we will give you a sneak peek at some of these hoarded treasures in our blog posts.

Lord Randolph ChurchillToday, we start early – 13 January 1906 to be precise – with a first edition presentation set of Lord Randolph Churchill inscribed to the man who guided Churchill’s successful first campaign as a Liberal.

This copy of Churchill’s biography of his father features a remarkable eight-line inscription in black ink on the front free endpaper:

Churchill inscription

F. Burn


Winston S. Churchill

As a memento of the great

Free Trade victory won in

Manchester 13 Jan 1906, &

in recognition of his share

in that good work.

The recipient, Fred Burn (1860-1930) signed the Volume II front free endpaper and further inked “Fred Burn | from the author” on the blank recto preceding the half title.

Case for Lord Randolph ChurchillThe set’s virtue resides in testifying to the associations and machinations of Churchill’s early Parliamentary career. The volumes have aesthetic flaws endemic to the edition, but are nonetheless unrestored and sound.  Each volume is housed in a blue cloth chemise nested within a custom quarter leather slipcase.

You probably have not heard of Fred Burn for a reason; he was the kind of behind-the-scenes political figure who pins the hinges of electoral power but remains substantially out of the limelight and out of the history books.

Frank Burn obituaryBurn was a particularly influential figure in Manchester Liberal politics.  His obituary remembered him as “one of the most successful, as he was one of the most agreeable, personalities among the professional party workers in the North of England.”  If anything, it is possible that his obituary understated Burn’s influence.  “Mr. Burn’s experience of political activity included the organization of the Liberal campaign against Mr. Winston Churchill when he was Conservative candidate at Oldham.[1]  Churchill lost the July 1899 Oldham by-election – his first attempt at Parliament. Half a decade later, Churchill turned for help to the very same, shrewd Liberal party fixer who had thwarted him.

Free Trade League speech ticket (1904)In 1903, The Manchester Liberal Federation (M.L.F.) “wanted ‘a superior man’”.[2]  Burn was named Secretary of the Manchester Liberal Federation (MLF) and immediately “under him the staff was re-organised.”  His £500 salary was “at the top end of the scale”, reflecting both his efficacy and the importance of his constituency.[3]  Burn would more than earn his salary.  A 24 March 1904 publication of the MLF lamented the death of the Liberal candidate for North-West Manchester and noted that “it is hoped that in the immediate future another name be put before the North-West Division.

That name was one familiar to Burn – Winston Churchill.

Early photo of ChurchillOn 31 May 1904 Churchill left his father’s Conservative Party, crossing the aisle to become a Liberal, beginning a dynamic chapter in his political career that saw him champion progressive causes and branded a traitor to his class.  On 2 January 1906 Churchill published his two-volume biography of his father.  Immediately thereafter, he campaigned for eight days in North-West Manchester, hoping to win his first election as a Liberal.

Churchill in top hatChurchill’s defection from the Conservative Party was much on the minds of the voters.  His father’s history was much on his own mind.  To the charge of being a political turncoat, Churchill replied: “I admit I have changed my Party.  I don’t deny it.  I am proud of it.  When I think of all of the labours Lord Randolph Churchill gave to the fortunes of the Conservative Party and the ungrateful way he was treated by them when they obtained the power they would never have had but for him, I am delighted that circumstances have enabled me to break with them while I am still young, and still have the best energies of my life to give to the popular cause.[4]

Burn helped balance the electoral scales in Churchill’s favor, guiding both local party organization and Churchill himself.  The Churchill Archives Centre houses dozens of letters from Burn to Churchill, spanning the weeks before Churchill’s defection from the Conservative Party to the death of Churchill’s mother in 1921. During Churchill’s initial transition to the Liberal Party, Burn was a constant source of information and guidance, some of which was minutely prescriptive.  Burn’s counsel was not unsolicited, but rather deliberately sought. Many of Burn’s letters are responses to direct inquiries from Churchill.  In a three-page, 15 July 1904 letter, Burn explained the constitution and organization of the Manchester Liberal Federation and how it functioned in relation to Liberal Party politics, including Party organization, political propaganda, and finance.  Burn advised Churchill in all three categories in granular detail.

A number of Burn’s letters to Churchill consist of detailed schedules for Churchill – whom he should meet, where he will speak, and even what he will speak about.  In a 17 March 1905 letter, Burn wrote to Churchill: “I have seen Mr Smith, the organizer of the Heyrod Street Hall Concert, and he has named 7.30 as the hour of meeting, half an hour earlier than is customary.  He hopes that you will speak for about twenty minutes and that you will say something about your experiences in South Africa as he wants the audience to carry away something that they will remember and which will stick by them.  A personal reminiscence of this character connected with your exploits there he thinks is just the thing… Mr Smith is anxious that not the slightest allusion, directly or indirectly, to anything political shall be made at Heyrod Street, Party politics are tabooed there, although outside he will be an active worker in your behalf.”  Burn was careful to direct Churchill to the Jewish community that made up a large portion of North-West Manchester population, setting up meetings with Rabbis and visits to Jewish clubs.  Burn also advised Churchill on the organizations with which he should associate.  On 31 October 1904, Burn wrote “with reference to your inquiries – I have spoken to one or two of our people privately about this and their opinion is that it might be useful to you in your campaign to be associated with a body so influential as the Oddfellows.”

“Political propaganda” was a major function of Burn’s MLF, with a reported half a million political leaflets and cartoons delivered to Manchester houses in 1903.  A 23 January 1905 letter from Burn to Churchill reveals the complex calculations Burn and the MLF made in the design of materials.  “The Free Trade League people are a bit afraid that if we announce you by poster for St John’s Meeting, it will detract from theirs in the Free Trade Hall, which is quite close… what I suggest is that we should put out an ordinary poster but without your name, and that we should notify by circular our St John’s friends that you will be present.

Money being integral to political calculus, the subject comprised a significant portion of Burn’s writing to Churchill.  Burn’s recommendations of organizations that should receive a subscription under Churchill’s name were remarkably detailed. The Welsh Women’s Temperance Association were made of “splendid workers in every good cause, including liberalism”.  Thus Churchill was to give them a small subscription (letter of 14 April 1905).  The Royal Army Medical Corps of Manchester should get two guineas (letter of 8 May 1906) while Burn remarked about the Hightown A.F.C. “you can let this application ‘slide’, it is a very small affair” (8 August 1906).  One charmingly detailed letter of 12 April 1906 to Churchill’s secretary reads “I have your letter regarding the appeal from the Manchester Grammar School.  I think it would be well for Mr Churchill to give a small subscription as there are about a thousand boys in the school representing a great number of families in the Division.  Besides that, the boys are very keen on politics at the present moment and have had mock Elections in which, by the way, one precocious youth posed as the Member for North-West Manchester [Churchill].  I notice they suggest a guinea as a first prize that I think should be sufficient.

Burn’s correspondence with Churchill makes apparent the importance of the individual voter in these community elections, which were often decided by hundreds of votes.  Much of Burn’s counsel was truly inside information – which community members to meet, clubs to visit, churches and dinners and teas and garden parties to attend.  A 14 April 1905 letter to Churchill’s secretary provided characteristically informed and specific advice: “I hope Mr Churchill will pardon me mentioning that a letter from him expressing his regret at hearing of Mr Eward’s illness would be appreciated.

Burn was a lynchpin to Churchill’s success.  And Churchill’s success was critical to the Liberals.  On 13 January 1906 Churchill won the traditionally Conservative seat by a majority of 1,241 in an electorate of 10,000.  His fellow Liberal campaigners became beneficiaries.  “His efforts in and around Manchester helped six other Liberal candidates to overturn Conservative seats.”  His cousin Ivor Guest wrote to him: “You have given the pendulum such a swing as will be felt throughout the whole country.[5]  The Liberals won 377 seats in an electoral landslide.

Churchill giving a speechNorth-West Manchester would prove a brief and fraught interlude in Churchill’s six-decade Parliamentary career, his shortest relationship among the five constituencies he ultimately held.  In 1908 when Churchill was appointed to the Cabinet as President of the Board of Trade, custom required that he submit to re-election. His by-election became a test of confidence in the Liberal government.  Forced to defend the Government’s policies, targeted by vengeful Conservatives, and hounded on the hustings by Suffragettes, Churchill was narrowly defeated by the Conservative candidate.

Cartoon of Churchill on a horseNonetheless, the 13 January 1906 election and Churchill’s brief time as M.P. for North-West Manchester made all things possible for him. At 31 years old, “Churchill was now a Junior Minister in a Government furnished with far greater authority than it had expected.”  Disraeli’s biographer wrote to congratulate Churchill “both on his book and the beginning of his official career”.[6]  Two years later, in 1908, Churchill would marry and be appointed to his first Cabinet post.  As a powerful Liberal Cabinet Minister during the First World War, Churchill would experience a cycle of political ruin and rehabilitation echoing – and preparing him for – the ostracism of the 1930s that preceded his vindicated role as Prime Minister during the Second World War.  Churchill would ultimately hold six different Cabinet posts under two Liberal prime ministers and would remain a Liberal until 1924, following the electoral destruction of the Liberal Party.

Flyer for Lord Randolph ChurchillAll this was as yet unseen when he won his first seat as a Liberal in North-West Manchester on 13 January 1906.  Nonetheless, we can reasonably speculate that the importance of the victory was not lost upon Churchill.  Churchill’s biography of his father had helped place Lord Randolph in historical context.  We can also speculate that Churchill’s electoral victory as a Liberal in North-West Manchester helped Churchill put the specter of Lord Randolph’s failed political career behind him.  Perhaps all of this was in Churchill’s mind – or perhaps he was simply grateful – when he paused to warmly inscribe this first edition of his newly published book to the man who helped him achieve success.  Irrespective, this presentation set testifies to the remarkable convergences of a pivotal moment in the life of both ascending Winstons – the literary and the political.

This item – and dozens of other signed, inscribed, or handwritten treasures – will appear in our “Extra Ink” catalogue to be printed at the end of this year.  Special thanks to our resourceful and indefatigable Churchill Book Collector colleague Elise, for much of the research for this post.

[1]The Berwick Advertiser, 14 August 1930

[2]Peter Clarke, Lancashire and the New Liberalism, p.207

[3]Kathryn Rix, “Hidden Workers of the Party”, Journal of Liberal History, 52 (2006), p.12

[4]Gilbert, A Life, p.175

[5]Gilbert, A Life, pp. 175-6

[6]Gilbert, A Life, pp. 175-6

A unique copy of The Hinge of Fate and the Hemingway character who threatened to sue Churchill

A book can be a counterintuitive object.  An array of tidy print between two covers neatly gilt-stamped with a proprietary author’s name belies the messy process of planning, writing, re-writing, emending, and further revising that actually makes any body of writing worth reading.  Precious few authors accomplish the tasks alone.  A veritable legion may be involved in publishing a book, including researchers, editors, agents, designers, lawyers, publishers, printers, and publicists.  Moreover, the effort may continue long after initial publication.

Eric Edward Dorman-Smith

All of this is particularly true of a monumental work like Churchill’s The Second World War.  A recent find, a copy of The Hinge of Fate from the Cassell and Company archives, helps pulls back the curtain to reveal the ongoing time and labor that goes into publication. It also reveals a little-known story from Churchill’s second Premiership about a real-life Hemingway character who threatened to sue Churchill for libel.

Cassell served as Churchill’s primary publisher for the final quarter century of his life, from 1941 on. As early as 1939 – before he was even Prime Minister – Churchill was courted by publishers for the enticingly lucrative rights to publish any post-war memoirs. When Newman Flower of Cassell secured publication rights to Churchill’s war memoirs, it was “perhaps the greatest coup of twentieth century publishing.” Churchill’s post-war literary output, particularly the six volumes of The Second World War, proved the essential asset to Cassell’s postwar recovery.

Publication of the first volume, The Gathering Storm, was held up with constant corrections – despite which the first edition contained a number of errors. Among the most embarrassing was a description of the French Army as the “poop” rather than the “prop” of France (rendered doubly problematic by proximity to truth). Although a capable team of proofreaders was engaged for the subsequent volumes, their efforts were not exhaustive, as evidenced by the number of corrections marked in this copy of the fourth volume.

The Hinge of FateThis volume, stamped “Editorial”on the front free endpaper and top edge, was a part of the Cassell and Company archives and features 55 handwritten emendations.  The Hinge of FateAccompanying the volume are 14 oversized, single sided galley sheets, as well as a loose copyright page with corrections for the “Fourth edition, third impression August 1977”.  This copy of the first edition was used in Cassell’s editorial department until at least 25 May 1977. The Hinge of FateWe have confirmed that handwritten corrections made within this particular volume were incorporated into later printings and editions. The edits range from simple corrections of letter cases to fixing misspellings to rewording sentences.

The Hinge of FateOne particular edit merits a highlight. At page 416 a typewritten sheet is laid in bearing additional copy for a footnote added in later editions. The story of this footnote involves a Second World War General fired by Churchill.

Eric Edward Dorman-Smith (1895-1969) served in the First World War with distinction, wounded three times and awarded the Military Cross for his efforts in the trenches of YpresDorman-Smith was nicknamed “Chink” due to his resemblance to the Chinkara antelope mascot of his WWI regiment.  On Armistice Day in Milan, Chink met Ernest Hemingway, who had been wounded on the Italian Front while serving with the Red Cross.  Chink’s wartime heroics, coupled with his chivalrous demeanor and immaculately dressed image, encapsulated Hemingway’s conceptions of war and honor.  They became friends, and Hemingway would later use Chink as the basis for the character Colonel Richard Cantwell, the hero of Hemingway’s novel Across the River and Into the Trees.

Across the River and Into the TreesAfter the war Chink split the 1920s between Paris – where Hemingway introduced him to James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and the rest of the city’s literary intelligentsia – and instructing at Sandhurst and Staff College Camberley. At Camberley, Chink scored 1000 out of 1000 on his tactics entrance paper, a record.  At the onset of the Second World War, he was positioned as the director of military training in India and was soon transferred to the Middle East Staff College in Haifa. Despite a position that he derided as a “schoolmaster’s role”, Chink’s tactical advice played a key role in Italy’s defeat at Beda Fomm.

Churchill1942 Auchinleck assumed command of the Eighth Army, and Dorman-Smith was promoted to acting major-general. He would hold the position for only three months. In August 1942 Winston Churchill ordered the “Cairo purge” – a complete restructuring of the Middle East command. Montgomery replaced Auchinleck and Dorman-Smith was given command of a brigade in Italy before being dismissed and involuntarily retiring in 1944. Disgraced and disillusioned, Dorman-Smith returned to his home in Ireland and changed his name to “O’Gowan”.  He would implausibly transition from British General to Irish nationalist and IRA supporter.

In 1953 O’Gowan’s solicitor sent a letter to 10 Downing Street claiming that the Prime Minister’s book The Hinge of Fate was libelous.  Despite only one reference to Dorman-Smith by name in the book, the letter claimed that Churchill had made “very grave charges that our client was incompetent and perhaps worse and that he was fired for incompetency.” Churchill’s offense was mentioning “General Dorman-Smith to be relieved a Deputy C.G.S.” in the general context of “disasters… in the Western Desert…”

O’Gowan né Dorman-Smith apparently employed his lawyers “all over the place, sent out for everything from slight disappointments in newspaper articles, to local affairs, such as destruction of heritage sites and water pollution in Cootehill.”  Nonetheless, Churchill was advised by Sir Hartley Shawcross (the lead British prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal) that the cited passages could plausibly be read as defamatory.  Defending a libel case might require making sensitive documents public.  Shawcross arranged for Alanbrooke and Montgomery to testify against O’Gowan.

The need never manifested; the trial never went to court.  In early 1954, O’Gowan suddenly backed down from his demands. O’Gowan’s biographer claimed Churchill’s advisor called on O’Gowan’s sense of chivalry by informing him of the Prime Minister’s stroke in 1953 and warning that the affair may cause a second, fatal stroke. The matter was settled by the inclusion of a footnote in future editions of the book – the typed manuscript of which is laid in this volume.

This unique copy of The Hinge of Fate may be viewed HERE.

Jeeping with ‘Pete’ – a remarkable and truly singular portrait of Europe in August 1945

The broad sweep of history is something Winston Churchill comprehended and communicated with extraordinary facility. The proverbial “big picture”. Naturally, we value the commanding views of the few great figures who conspicuously shape events.  But the voices of the many who are quietly living history are often lost.  When we are able to hear them, such voices can impart a more intimate and richly textured human scale.

Which brings me to the subject of this post.

Dalton NewfieldWith genuine excitement, we have just catalogued a unique, handmade book in which the writer, photographer, and compiler, Dalton Newfield (1918-1982) chronicled – in words and photos – the impromptu, unsanctioned, and rather remarkable European tour by jeep in the days immediately following the surrender of Japan in August 1945.

It so happens that Dalton Newfield was later the world’s first Churchill-specialist bookseller.  He also became the senior editor of the International Churchill Society’s journal, Finest Hour.  But while this earns him our enduring respect and appreciation, it has little to do with why we are writing about Dalton today.

Jeeping with PeteDalton’s unpublished, previously unknown, and strikingly interesting little book, Jeeping with ‘Pete’ is 67 pages of often dense typed narrative illustrated with 87 original photos and 13 European postcards of the era.  It is bound in thick brown leather, which Dalton meticulously incised with the title on the front cover and bound with a metal strip.

Dalton NewfieldDuring the Second World War, Dalton Newfield served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.  After the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, Dalton decided to see Europe for himself in the war’s immediate aftermath.  Newfield took with him a lighter he engraved for every country he visited and the title’s eponymous “Pete” – his friend Peter Luppen.  His book records what he saw and how he saw it during an epic and improbable road trip.

Dalton’s prose is neither polished nor deliberatively philosophical, evidently typed as he went along and peppered with spelling, typing, and grammatical errors.  But there is pith and thoughtful observation evident in both his words and his photographs. Dalton’s photography is better than amateur and can be truly moving.

Image from Jeeping with PeteHis images capture a diverse range of subjects.  Nuns in Paris.  Turbaned Moroccan soldiers posing with lederhosen-clad children in Austria.  Men excavating the rubble of a bombed town.  Allied edicts posted along the German border.  Abandoned vehicles on the Autobahn.  Boats laying quietly out of the water in a fishing port.  A disheveled little girl, small and barefoot in the bright sun with a shadowed stone wall and a darkened, bomb-damaged church in the background.

Image from Jeeping with PeteThis was neither an official nor a sanctioned adventure. As Dalton observed: “Our orders are a bit questionable, as mine only carry me to Paris definitely and Petes don’t carry him to any particular place.”  Dalton explains “…we talked over our choice between going like hell and seeing a little bit of a lot of different places, and taking it easy and seeing a lot of a few… we chose the former…”  Dalton and Pete made a remarkable dash of a trek, crossing through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy.

Starting off in Cherbourg, France on 19 August 1945, the duo began their journey south to Paris. Along the way Dalton gives an affecting depiction of the ways in which life in small towns in France simultaneously showed the scars of the War’s technological assault and retained their nearly pre-industrial ways of life.  PhotReveller riding a donkeyographs depict a liberation parade with revelers riding donkeys and floats pulled by horses.  A pair of fisherman bait their lines and coil them into baskets.  A town crier beats a drum to summon townsfolk, before delivering news. Image of an older woman

Page from Jeeping with Pete“…at the very end of the main street we found the town crier.  He was very shabbily dressed in remnants of what may have been great glory in the past.  Perhaps in peacetime he will recoup.  He had on a faded blue shirt and old, dirty, black trousers.  On his head a jaunty, if dusty, pillbox hat.  Across his chest a leather strap… at the end of which hung a snare drum…  I approached him and asked him for a picture.  He instantaneously assumed a proud position and posed nicely, for which I gave him one of my last two cigarettes.  Then he made a ruffle on the drums for about ten seconds, waited a half minute while the townspeople rolled out of the doors, and then announced something in rapid French…”

Burlesque showDalton described post-liberation Parisian diversions; Dalton and Pete navigated a black market currency exchange in a “disreputable café”, attended a burlesque show in Pigalle (capturing two images of the topless and feathered dancers), saw an Agatha Christie play (“Ten Little Niggers”), and witnessed a fire dancer at an Officer’s Club.

Continuing east, Dalton paints a vivid picture of the devastation left behind by the war. “Following the coast line we began to see names that we had seen many times in the papers after D Day.  Trouville, Villerville, Deauville.”  He becomes a discerning connoisseur of carnage: “There are differences in wreckage.  The wreckage of bombing seems almost gentler than that by shelling… You can see that Caen was shelled.

While exploring a bombed church in Alsace-Lorraine, Dalton and Pete encountered a German-speaking priest, “a burly character with a days growth of beard too many…

Page from Jeeping with Pete“… he told us all about the battle there… He took us into his backyard and showed us the foxholes the Americans had used.  I felt quite humble as he picked up some cartridge cases, cases that had been fired against Germans.  A gas mask lay by the field a Sherman tank lay blasted…  Digging into the past he told us this was also the scene for a battle of the Franco-Prussian war… Then he showed us where a B17 had come down… But most of all, he told us of the late battle there and it was quite vivid… he showed us his garden, warning us away from one spot where two mines still lay… I gave him some cigars… and he was most grateful.  He was growing a row of “tabac” in the garden, he was so low.  Coming out into the reality of the time again, we found our jeep surrounded by kids and so passed out, one at a time, our last roll of Life Savers.  At the end of the line I found old grandma, who wanted her’s too.  The children cried “Merci” but grandmother said “Donkeshane”… we climbed into the jeep and slowly drove away… caught between two countries whose fate has been one war after another.”

Sign at German borderThey continued through Belgium and Luxembourg. Dalton’s comments show him curious and observant, but also clearly marked by the bitter sentiments of a soldier who has lost time, hearth, and comrades to an unforgiven foe.  Passing into Germany Dalton notes “we didn’t pause here, and to celebrate the new country for my lighter, I merely spat out the window.” In Germany, Dalton observed the devastation one would expect to find in August 1945: “The route from Homburg to Ludwigshaved is so littered with the wreckage of armored armies that it is nigh indescribable.  Almost bumper to bumper, and in many places several deep, the carcases of trucks, cars, and tanks line the way.”  Later, observing “burned-out tanks, Bren gun carriers, trucks, etc., all along way” Dalton says – perhaps inadvertently laconic and symbolic – “Occasionally they had been gathered into piles for salvage, but for the most part they lay as they died.  The farmers carefully plowed around them.

In Austria, while changing a particularly stubborn flat with help from the locals, Dalton observed: “I had a good chance to talk to these people.  We talked, of course, mostly about the war, and I found that what others are finding is true: it is always someone else to blame, never the person you are talking to.  The Fraulein had lost a brother at Stalingrad and her fiancée in France and was quite sorry. Her father she had not heard from since March.  I found myself sympathizing with her until I caught myself and started questioning her about Hitler.

A more philosophically unforgiving Dalton also observes of the Austrians: “They had only the choice of accepting or being killed or put in a concentration camp, so that they made the best of a bad thing… I left but in leaving thought: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet that it must be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

Page from Jeeping with PeteWhere there are glints of sympathy for the volk, there is none for those who led them to war.  Crossing into Italy via the Brenner Pass, Dalton noted: “Someone casually mentioned that this was the room where Hitler met Musso, and so, sure enough, after questions we found that where we ate C rations with impunity, H and M talked and ate.  Hope their food stuck in their craws – ours didn’t.”

Despite the hardened perspectives that understandably informed and colored what Dalton saw, it is clear from his images and prose that the journey was affecting.  In the final pages of his narrative, Dalton enigmatically writes: “…so good that we are thinking – just thinking – that maybe – well, we shall see.

The book opens with Dalton’s carefully printed and signed title page and dedication:










Below the date is Dalton’s autograph.

At the end of Dalton’s narrative, below the word “FIN”, Dalton typed a postscript:

PostscriptFrom ATC Hq., Place Vendrome, from where I start on the bus which leads to the plane which leads to England.

Just below that postscript, a second postscript, in different type evidently added later: 

“and my Eleanor ….who

retravelled this book in 1978

as my darling wife…

Dalton Newfield took from wartime Europe not only an abiding respect for Churchill, but also an English bride.  The final page of the book is a holograph postscript in the hand Dalton’s wife, Eleanor:

Postscript from Eleanor NewfieldPeter Luppen died in 1974

of polio, leaving widow & two

young son.  Pete was history

Professor, Stanford University.

Lt Col Dalton Dalton Newfield died

March 23 1982 – leaving wife

Eleanor (Clauson) Newfield.

Their son (Rand) Randolph

Charles Dalton-Newfield

July 25 1950 – died Jan 4th1959

of cancer.

Dalton known around the world

as an expert on Winston S. Churchill.

We also include two additional photographs, of Dalton Newfield and Peter Luppen, which were found laid into the book, as well as eleven pages of what appears to be a later, unfinished, type-written attempt by Newfield to fictionalize the narrative.

Type-written attempt to fictionalize the narrativeIt has been a pleasure and a privilege for us to review, relive, and relate the singular perspective and experiences compiled in this singular little book.  We look forward to relinquishing “Jeeping with Pete” to the stewardship of a new collector, ensuring the preservation and continued appreciation of the vivid and intimate vignettes therein.

Jeeping with Pete

Oops!  Borrowed words

Churchill may be the most quoted statesman ever.  That of course also makes him a frequently misquoted figure.  Mis-attribution even extends to quotes about him.

I’ve had a subscription to The Economist for the better part of 30 years.  While no single news source is oracular or decisively authoritative, I find The Economist to be the most consistently thoughtful and relentlessly insightful periodical of which I’m aware.

JFK and Randolph ChurchillBut in their 31 March edition, the venerable Economist bungled a quote about Churchill.  Moreover, they bungled it in an article that discussed plagiarism. In an extensive piece about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (“Like a Mighty Stream”, March 31st2018, pp.81-83), The Economist wrote about Dr. King’s documented history of borrowing the words of others, even while rightly praising the power and efficacy of his oratory.  The comparison made in the article was to another of the 20thcentury’s great oratorical voices:

“If Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle”, as JFK put it, King appropriated the language of Zion to dispatch armies of peaceful protesters in pursuit of their freedom.”

A lovely comparison.  Just one problem: JFK did not put it thus.  Edward R. Murrow did.Edward R. Murrow

So an article that discussed misappropriation of language by a significant public figure was perpetuating misappropriation of language by a significant public figure.  Since it was about Churchill, of course we chimed in.

Economist articleI wrote to The Economist thus:

Dear Editor,

 With delicious irony I noted an error of attribution in your piece “Like a mighty stream” in the Books and arts section of your March 31st2018 edition.  You referenced some of the plagiarism of which Dr. King has been accused. Then, in the same piece, you reference how “as JFK put it”, Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle”.  Actually, that was how Edward R. Murrow put it, and how JFK plagiarized it when he conferred honorary U.S. citizenship on Churchill years later.  Though you may not have meant it thus, you provided an eloquent reminder that words can be well-borrowed, and that we should mind the ubiquitous glass houses when throwing stones.  Or so I think someone once said.

Marc Kuritz

San Diego

Merc Kuritz's letter to the editor of The EconomistTo their credit, as The Economist always does, they acknowledged in print.  Here’s what the folks at The Economist printed in their April 14th2018 edition (Letters, p.14)

You mentioned some of the plagiarism that King has been accused of.  But you referenced the quote that Winston Churchill “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle” to John F. Kennedy.  Actually, that was how Edward Murrow put it, and how JFK plagiarized it years later when he conferred honorary American citizenship on Churchill. You thus provided an eloquent reminder that words can e well-borrowed, and that we should mind the ubiquitous glasshouses when throwing stones.  Or so I think someone once said. 

Marc Kuritz

San Diego

The EconomistWhich brings us back to the quotable guy the quote was about.

Quoting Churchill can be fraught.  The internet is full of mangled and dubious Churchill quotations.  When quoting Churchill, we strongly recommend Richard Langworth’s most excellent book Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations.  627 pages of well-organized, well-documented, well-indexed Churchill quotes that can be relied upon for veracity.

We might send a complimentary copy to The Economist

Churchill By HimselfCheers!

Churchill in Correspondence and Photographs

Why does a bookseller produce a catalogue full of letters and photographs?

Especially a bookseller who specializes in works by and about Winston Churchill?

It’s is not as if we lack material. Churchill left us a staggering volume of published work. More than perhaps any leader before or since, Churchill chronicled the arc of his vast experience, versatile mind, and the extraordinary time he so fully inhabited.

And he didn’t just write prolifically. He wrote with extraordinary grace, power, and skill. Churchill was a politician who managed to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

But even so…

Published work has limitations – limitations inherent to the very acts of drafting and editing, of expert input, careful consideration, and diligent preparation. Readying words for publication can dull and distance them even as they are polished. Render remote a compelling context. Deprive the immediacy of a moment or perspective. Leave the ink a little too dry on a paper that’s just a bit too clean.

Churchill catalogueCorrespondence and photographs are different. More ephemeral. More candid. More distinctly in and of the moment. Able to impart a vital sense of things that no acclaimed book or carefully crafted speech – however Churchillian in its mastery – can quite capture.

Churchill flyingSo even though Churchill left us a wealth of published words and images, there is more yet to see, to learn, and – critically – to feel from letters and photographs.

Hence our new catalogue. 40 items spanning nearly the entirety of Churchill’s twentieth century experience, from 1903 to 1965.

Personal correspondence in our catalogue includes letters from, to, and about Churchill. Churchill’s own letters are to press moguls like Hearst and Northcliffe, to his publishers and literary team, and even to his paint supplier. Letters about Churchill are equally compelling.

Letter to Northcliffe

Letter from Sir Bindon BloodLetters by General Sir Bindon Blood about Churchill’s first book. A letter from Churchill’s literary assistant threatening his publisher with “a second gathering storm about to break!” over typos in the first volume of The Second World War. And a particularly poignant letter observing Churchill at the Savoy Hotel in 1961.

Images are equally compelling. Among them… Press photos of Churchill learning to fly before the First World War.

Churchill and Roosevelt in QuebecAn exciting discovery of unpublished photographic negatives of Churchill and Roosevelt from their 1943 conference in Quebec.

Photos from Churchill's funeralAn archive of press photos from Churchill’s state funeral including annotated and edited images.

It has been a privilege to handle this material. We hope you enjoy perusing the catalogue as much as we enjoyed creating it.


Churchill catalogue

Jeremy Wilson & T. E. Lawrence

Jeremy WilsonIn 2017, we lost Jeremy Wilson, the world’s leading authority on T. E. Lawrence. It was a blow to scholarship, to collectors, and to T. E. Lawrence himself, who may never have had anyone else so comprehendingly versed in, and dedicated to, his life and writing.

In his final years, I had the privilege of corresponding with Jeremy. It was a decidedly one-sided exchange in my favor. Of course we helped some Castle Hill Press inventory find the shelves of discerning readers and collectors. But the main benefit of our correspondence accrued to me, as Jeremy was unstintingly generous in sharing his inestimable knowledge and experience, which was always delivered with wit and decency.

Jeremy WilsonIn the early 1970s, Wilson edited an anthology of T. E. Lawrence’s favorite poems (Minorities). This catalyzed Wilson’s appointment by A. W. Lawrence as the authorized biographer of his elder brother, T. E. Lawrence. Wilson devoted the remainder of his professional life and scholarship to Lawrence. In 1990, Wilson published Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorized Biography of T. E. Lawrence to wide acclaim. That same year, Wilson and his wife, Nicole, set up Castle Hill Press to edit and publish scholarly editions of Lawrence’s works and correspondence. For the next quarter of a century, Castle Hill Press served as the premier editors and fine press publishers of material by and about T. E. Lawrence, combining meticulous scholarship and discriminating aesthetic sensibilities to produce a dazzling array of limited editions of Lawrence literature, biographies, and correspondence. Each edition has become instantly collectible upon publication. Many of these editions, or constituent parts thereof, had never before been published.

Seven Pillars of WisdomIt is difficult to single out any one accomplishment in the accumulated trove of Jeremy and Nicole Wilson’s Castle Hill press publications. Nonetheless, in my view perhaps their single most remarkable achievement was the 1997 publication of the fullest surviving 1922 ‘Oxford’ text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

When Lawrence died in 1935 following a motorcycle crash, his masterwork was rushed into print in the only version readily available – the 1926 “Subscribers” abridgement. Seven Pillars of Wisdom That 250,000-word text released to the world as “Complete and Unabridged” was neither. But it sold very well, so the publishers long resisted publishing the full, 334,500-word 1922 “Oxford Text”, which “could only be a direct commercial threat to the highly profitable investment they had already made.” Incredibly, this 1922 text had to wait three quarters of a century to see publication; the 1922 “Oxford Text” – a third longer – was not published until 1997 when Castle Hill Press finally brought it to the reading public.

Beyond the more subjective questions of literature, in terms of both autobiography and history, “the 1922 text is, without question, superior to that of 1926. In the process of ‘literary’ abridgement, Lawrence cut out numerous personal reflections, some of which were important.” For example, the 1926 text excised Lawrence’s “confession that the flogging at Deraa left him with a masochistic longing… and his recollection of this event a few weeks later when he was present at Allenby’s official entry into Jerusalem. The historical record, likewise often fell victim to abridgement… because of the cuts, [the narrative] does not always account for Lawrence’s time or seem to square with independent records. Worse still, the frustrations and abandoned plans of 1917-18 were largely suppressed in the 1926 text…”

Since it was first published in 1997, the remarkable Castle Hill Press edition of the 1922 Oxford text of Seven Pillars has seen a two-volume limited edition (with accompanying illustrations volume), a one-volume limited edition, a hardcover trade edition, and finally, paperback editions. However, the hallmark is and will remain the first twenty sets produced by Castle Hill Press. For these twenty sets, Castle Hill Press spared no effort or expense, either in meticulous erudition or superb craftsmanship.

Seven Pillars of WisdomThe first twenty sets comprise six volumes and a clamshell folio, all housed in two cloth Solander cases.

Seven Pillars of WisdomTwo volumes containing the 1922 text are bound by The Fine Bindery in a specially commissioned design of full tan and blue goatskin with dark pink marbled calf onlay, all edges gilt, hand-sewn head and tail bands, leather joints, and suede doublures.

Seven Pillars of WisdomTwo volumes containing parallel presentation of the 1922 and 1926 texts are bound in quarter brown goatskin over brown cloth with hand-marbled endpapers and gilt top edges. A single volume containing the eight chapters of the Introductory Book of Seven Pillars in parallel 1924/1936 text is likewise bound in quarter brown goatskin.

Seven Pillars of WisdomA companion volume of illustrations is bound in full black blind-ruled goatskin with all edges gilt and illustrated endpapers. An internal box contains an unbound proof set of the Seven Pillars portraits.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom Seven Pillars of WisdomEach of the twenty sets was hand-numbered in both the main text and parallel text volumes and signed by Jeremy Wilson. The set is a simply magnificent shelf presence, a monument to both the author and publisher that made it *almost* worth the 75-year wait.

Despite the superlative bindings, Jeremy Wilson himself stated “the most important thing was the text.” Preparation of the text was meticulous, taking advantage of Wilson’s knowledge as the foremost scholarly authority on T. E. Lawrence:

“My aim in preparing the 1922 Text for publication was to issue it in its ‘best’ form. The initial typesetting was based on Lawrence’s corrected Oxford Times proof. This was then checked against the Bodleian Library manuscript to correct the printer’s many transcription errors and ‘house style’ punctuation changes. I also restored printer’s omissions not corrected by Lawrence, two of which are of considerable interest. At the end of this process, the text published by Castle Hill Press was considerably more accurate than the text of the 1922 Oxford Times proofs.

However, I found that in addition to straight corrections, Lawrence had made some hundreds of amendments on his copy of the printed text. These were clearly intended as textual improvements, and I decided to retain them. That produced a version which incorporates his final revisions to the 1922 draft, and is superior both to the manuscript and to the surviving Oxford Times proofs. Finally, the book was lightly copy-edited to remove the grammatical and punctuation errors inevitable in a manuscript, and also to eliminate Lawrence’s random variations in capitalisation and Arabic transliteration.”

When preparing the limited editions of the Oxford Text, Castle Hill Press also undertook the painstaking, mammoth task of creating a parallel text editon – two large volumes containing complete texts of the 1922 and 1926 versions, typeset side-by-side in double columns. Seven Pillars of WisdomThis double-column format aligns the beginning of each sentence that exists in both texts so that readers can see at a glance exactly what was omitted and what was revised, illuminating the significant differences in style and content between the two texts. The parallel text is not only a wonderful work of scholarship, but it also shows why publication of the 1922 text was so important to publish. Just 37 numbered sets of parallel text were produced, the first twenty of which were specially bound and included with the first twenty special sets.

Issued twenty years ago, the first twenty sets produced by Castle Hill Press count, in the opinion of this writer, bookseller, and book collector, among the most noteworthy pieces of twentieth century fine press production.

For the first time, we are able to offer one of these twenty sets, #18, which we acquired from the library of the original subscriber in pristine, as-new condition and which may be viewed HERE. Our full inventory of Castle Hill Press listings may be viewed HERE and our entire T. E. Lawrence inventory HERE.

Poem for the Holidays

This time of year always makes my southern California home feel furthest from my Northeast roots. It is always Robert Frost who brings me to my source.

This season, I have the good fortune to have an evolving draft of a poem written in Frost’s own hand to tell you about – and what’s more, it is a poem appropriate to the spirit of the season. But first, a bit more about Frost for the benefit of those of you unfamiliar.

Robert FrostGreat literature is full of contradictions. So it is that the quintessential poetic voice of New England was actually born in San Francisco and first published in England. Iconic American poet Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) would ultimately win the Pulitzer Prize four times and spend the final decades of his life as “the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century” – but he did not publish his first volume of poetry until he was nearly forty years old. It was titled A Boy’s Will – another irony for a father by then approaching middle age.

When Frost was eleven, his newly widowed mother moved east to Salem, New Hampshire, to resume a teaching career. There Frost swiftly found his poetic voice, infused by New England scenes and sensibilities. Promising as a student and writer, Frost nonetheless dropped out of both Dartmouth and Harvard, supporting himself and a young family by teaching and farming.Robert Frost sign

It was a 1912 move to England with his wife and children – “the place to be poor and to write poems” – that finally catalyzed his recognition as a noteworthy American poet. The manuscript of A Boy’s Will was completed in England and accepted for publication by David Nutt on 1 April 1913. Yeats pronounced the poetry “the best written in America for some time” and Frost received “two extraordinary tributes in the Nation and the Chicago Dial and a superb review in the Academy.” (ANB) A convocation of critical recognition, introduction to other writers, and creative energy supported the English publication of Frost’s second book, North of Boston, in 1914, after which “Frost’s reputation as a leading poet had been firmly established in England, and Henry Holt of New York had agreed to publish his books in America.”

Robert Frost and JFKAccolades met his return to America at the end of 1914 and by 1917 a move to Amherst “launched him on the twofold career he would lead for the rest of his life: teaching whatever “subjects” he pleased at a congenial college… and “barding around,” his term for “saying” poems in a conversational performance.” (ANB) By 1924 he had won the first of his eventual four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (1931, 1937, and 1943). Fame and a host of academic and civic honors accreted during Frost’s final decades. Two years before his death he became the first poet to read in the program of a U.S. Presidential inauguration (Kennedy, January 1961).

All of which is by way of introducing a poem.

A Boy's WillIt was not uncommon for Frost to inscribe his books with excerpts from his poems. But we recently acquired a particularly special copy – an American first edition of the author’s first published book inscribed by Frost on the front free endpaper in 10 lines with the full text of the evolving draft of an untitled poem that would be published in 1928’s West-Running Brook as “A Minor Bird”.

The full inscription reads: “I have wished a bird would fly away | And not sing by my house all day, | Have clapped my hands at him from the door | When it seemed as if I could bear no more. | The fault may partly have been in me. | The bird was not to blame for his key. | And of course there must be something wrong | In wanting to silence any song. | Robert Frost | For Elizabeth & Ten Eyck Perry”.Handwritten poem

Significantly, this untitled manuscript version of “A Minor Bird” is an evolving draft, following the poem’s first publication in Inlander magazine (of the University of Michigan) in 1926, but preceding the first volume publication in 1928. When published in Inlander, the poem read “may” instead of “must” at line 5, “I own” instead of “of course” in line 7, and in the final, 8th line “ever wanting to silence song” instead of “wanting to silence any song.” This manuscript copy reflects the changes to lines 7 & 8, but does not yet incorporate the change to line 5. The difference between “must” and “may” is substantive, at both the physical and literary center of the poem.

Consonant with the evolving draft, this copy was likely inscribed in November 1927, placing it squarely between the original, 1926 publication in Inlander and publication in West-Running Brook (19 November 1928). We were able to confirm that Henry Ten Eyck Perry (1890-1973), a native of Albany, New York, was a writer and professor of English. Ten Eyck Perry graduated from Yale in 1912, received his doctorate from Harvard in 1918, published a number of books, and taught English at the University of Buffalo. There he apparently interacted with at least one other major American poet; T.S. Eliot wrote in a letter of 26 December 1932 that he was to visit “Buffallo or is it Buffalo Bufallo Bufaloo to stay with Professor Henry Ten Eyck Perry.” The marriage of Elizabeth Ten Eyck Perry (nee Elizabeth McAfee, 1888-1976) led to her involvement with the University of Buffalo, where she was the founding president of the Women’s Club in 1946. In the University of Buffalo’s archives we find reference to two visits from Robert Frost, once to deliver a lecture in 1921 and for a three day stay in 1927. This inscription was likely made in November of 1927, when Frost visited the University of Buffalo as “poet in residence”. The school’s newspaper notes that during his three day visit he had office hours and “his time [was] at the service of students, faculty, and to a certain extent of townspeople.”

It was a particular pleasure to research this particular poem at this particular time of year. The “Minor Bird” is eponymous (and synonymous) with the myna (or mynah) bird, which can mimic human speech. “Song” is a repeated metaphor used by Frost for creative, free expression. Hence, we can infer the author criticizing the impulse to stifle creative expression – a churlish impulse as endemically human as is the urge to creative expression itself. Particularly lovely is that the author chooses to recognize and criticize the impulse in himself. And that this evolving draft shows him making that self-admonition more definitive with the changes that had already been made, as well as the final change – “may” to “must” in line 5 – that had yet to be made when Frost penned this inscription in 1927.

To me, the poem is a conch shell of spiraling, widening, opening awareness.

The poet, in the midst of creative expression, acknowledging the dynamic tension between creation and judgement, his reflexive chastisement of competing voices yielding to acknowledgement and acceptance. The recognition of himself in “any song” which allows him to hear – and thus to give voice himself.

For the season, I found it even more bracing than “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and a gentle reminder that I, too, have “miles to go before I sleep” – in patience, in understanding, and, if I am fortunate, in hearing the chorus that enfolds and enriches my own voice.