Churchill By Himself: Errata & Corrigenda

Second Ebury Edition

Churchill By Himself is the only Churchill quote book with each entry referenced with a date and source. There’s even an appendix on incorrect quotations (called “Red Herrings”), stating why they are not Churchill’s. It is also the only Churchill quote book that has undergone checking to produce a text as close to Churchill’s original words as possible.

Just before the first publication in 2008, we found that a transcriber had made errors in copying out many quotations. Despite a mammoth last minute effort (which cost most of our advance), they were not all caught—as one proofreader later informed me! Two proofreaders, Dave Turrell and Barbara Langworth, were devoted to getting it right, whatever it took. I owe them far more than they were paid.

Any book containing as many references as this one is a constant running battle between contrary sources, experts who disagree with each other, and inexorable deadlines. We corrected the major transcription errors and issued an initial list of errata for the first American and first British editions. These corrections were entered in the second British edition (distinguished by a dust jacket that does not cut off the top of WSC’s head, as in the first British). The second British edition (above) is available from Amazon UK. Click on this link. Unfortunately it will cost more to buyers in North America, but it is currently the most updated edition.

In 2010 we began a review of every individual entry in the book, which is now evolving toward digital forms: in combination with the Churchill Archives’ Web-based research system being developed by Bloomsbury Publishing; and an E-book, as well as print versions of the next edition. My ultimate goal is to link all quote references in the book to Bloomsbury’s archival research site.

This has proven a satisfying if laborious process—and an education. For example, we found many detail variations in wording or punctuation between what Churchill published in his original speech volumes and what Robert Rhodes James’s Complete Speeches or Hansard had recorded. We always assign priority to the first known version of any quote—and, when we have a choice, to Churchill’s own books.

Even Sir Martin Gilbert’s official biography is subject to such quandaries. For instance, Churchill By Himself on page 360 carries Churchill’s wonderful valedictory to Eddie Marsh, from Sir Martin’s Volume VIII (published 1988): “All his long life was serene, and he left that world I trust without a pang and I am sure without a fear.” But in Christopher Hassall’s biography of Marsh (published 1959), the quote reads “this world” not “that world.” and has more commas: “…he left this world, I trust, without a pang, and I am sure without a fear.”

Sir Martin’s version is good enough for me, and if ever I contradict him, it will be when I find different wording in one of Churchill’s own works. I am indifferent to missing commas, which appear and vanish in various texts; but I retain all that seem critical. I have not attempted to reconcile instances of English and American spelling, such as the word “organisation/organization,” which Churchill used interchangeably even in English works. There is only so much rationalizing you can do before you drive yourself mad.

In checking each entry against its original version, we found most errors to be trivial, not affecting Churchill’s meaning; nevertheless they must go. The British second edition corrected many, but there are more, ranging from a misplaced comma to a mangled word or phrase. We are nearing the end of our task and will soon have a complete errata sheet for anyone who wishes it.

In the meantime, we offer errata sheets depending on which edition of the book you have:

1) For the basic errata slip for the first editions (British and American), please contact me through the contact form on this website:

2) For an up-to-the-minute (but not yet final) errata slip for the second British edition, which is still being compiled, please contact me likewise.

For me, the best errata sheet of all will be the third and final edition, and the E-book developed from it: the wind-up of a riveting, 20-year troll through Churchill’s inimitable prose. —RML

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

gilbert September 29, 2011 at 11:16

big job on a great book

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