Churchill’s Collected Works

Churchill’s Collected Works

Can you direct me to a set of the “Col­lect­ed Works” of Win­ston Churchill? If, as I sus­pect, this is a pricey and lim­it­ed pro­duc­tion, how can I build a com­plete col­lec­tion of his works with­out spend­ing a for­tune? —G.S., Maine, USA

You refer to the Col­lect­ed Works of Sir Win­ston Churchill, 40 vol­umes includ­ing four vol­umes of Col­lect­ed Essays, pub­lished by the Library of Impe­r­i­al His­to­ry in Lon­don in 1974-75. (The Diner’s Club pro­duced anoth­er col­lec­tion of Major Works, but they were not complete.)

These books were dis­cussed in my Connoisseur’s Guide to the Books of Sir Win­ston Churchill, which is now post­ed as an online guide (.pdf down­loads) by Chartwell Book­sellers, where you may also find a set of the Col­lect­ed Works for sale. (Click­ing on the Connoisseur’s Guide pho­to at right will take you to the guide’s home page.)

In my book I refer to the “Col­lect­ed Works” as “expen­sive reprints,” which they are: nice sets of Churchill’s books can be put togeth­er with trade edi­tions for much less, and Chartwell Book­sellers has a broad listing.

Nowa­days hard­ly any­one can afford the Col­lect­ed Works. Dubbed the “Cen­te­nary Lim­it­ed Edi­tion,” some 2000 sets were pub­lished in bla­tant pur­suit of lucre, and the sto­ry (recount­ed in my book) is a sor­did tale. They were bound in vel­lum, which tends to swell and warp, mak­ing them too tight to remove from their slip­cas­es. In the 1990s I found and began bind­ing sev­er­al hun­dred remain­ing sheets in leather as well as vel­lum, but those too are now out of sight. Also, the gen­er­al edi­tor of the series, the late Fred Woods, edit­ed many of the texts (mak­ing changes dis­cussed in detail in the Connoisseur’s Guide), which makes them use­less as a source of Churchill’s orig­i­nal words.

The great advan­tage of the enter­prise was the four-vol­ume Col­lect­ed Essays, the only col­lec­tion of Churchill’s peri­od­i­cal arti­cles (oth­er than those reprint­ed in his books) ever pub­lished in vol­ume form, with a fine intro­duc­tion by the late Michael Wolff. Owing to pop­u­lar demand the Essays were also issued in a half-blue leather “Cen­te­nary Edi­tion,” which was sold sep­a­rate­ly. Sets some­times sur­face in that form, but the Essays were nev­er reprint­ed, and demand is high, forc­ing prices up accord­ing­ly. Alas, though I’ve tried to inter­est the pub­lish­ers of lim­it­ed edi­tions from Eas­t­on Press to the Folio Soci­ety in reprint­ing the set, none has ever bit­ten the bullet.

A Churchill Library on a Budget

Please read my 2000 arti­cle, “What Price Churchill? Build­ing a Col­lec­tion” on The Churchill Cen­tre web­site: The rec­om­men­da­tions in that arti­cle are still good. Except for excep­tion­al copies and first edi­tions, prices have not risen all that much, and many non-first edi­tions are afford­able. Sec­ond­hand book­shops are full of com­mon titles like The Sec­oond World War, Blood Sweat and Tears and My Ear­ly Life. 

The River War First EditionThe biggest expense at the moment (because no inex­pen­sive alter­na­tive to the orig­i­nal text is avail­able) is Churchill’s epic 1899 sto­ry of the recon­quest of the Sudan, The Riv­er War, assum­ing you want the orig­i­nal two-vol­ume text—far supe­ri­or to the abridge­ments that have been the only texts since 1901. How­ev­er, St. Augustine’s Press is pub­lish­ing a new fac­sim­i­le two-vol­ume edi­tion ful­ly updat­ed and anno­tat­ed by the emi­nent Pro­fes­sor James W. Muller. It has been long delayed but we should see it this year or next. It is well worth wait­ing for.

2 thoughts on “Churchill’s Collected Works

  1. Steve, Try Mark Weber, the Churchill Book Spe­cial­ist (wscbooks.com) and Bar­ry Singer, Chartwell Book­sellers (churchillbooks.com). Be advised, though, that except for fine ear­ly first edi­tion the Churchill book mar­ket is not what it was and prices are gen­er­al­ly lowe. The Col­lect­ed Works, how­ev­er, is still bring­ing hefty prices.

  2. Dear Richard
    Wish­ing you a Hap­py New Year.
    I have a col­lec­tion of mil­i­tary his­to­ry books con­tem­po­rary and rare that were col­lect­ed by my father Roy Sower­by. The col­lec­tion includes mint first edi­tion of Churchill’s col­lect­ed works pub­lished in 1973 – 1976. The com­plete col­lec­tion is avail­able for sale as one lot as I want them to go to a good home togeth­er. Would you know of a spe­cial­ist book store or col­lec­tor that might be inter­est­ed in this very per­son­al col­lec­tion? Thank you for your help.
    Best regards
    Steve Sowerby

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