Hillsdale Acquires Cohen Collection of Churchill’s Writings

Hillsdale Acquires Cohen Collection of Churchill’s Writings

The Cohen Trove

Hills­dale Col­lege has announced acqui­si­tion of an impor­tant part of the Ronald Cohen col­lec­tion of the writ­ings of Sir Win­ston Churchill. It num­bers almost 2000 indi­vid­ual items. They com­prise six cat­e­gories: fore­words, pref­aces, and intro­duc­tions by Churchill; peri­od­i­cal arti­cles; works and peri­od­i­cals con­tain­ing Churchill speech­es; let­ters, mem­o­ran­da, state­ments and let­ters to the edi­tor. Some 15% of these writ­ings have not seen print since their orig­i­nal, lim­it­ed edi­tions, and there­fore com­prise a “sub­merged canon,” because they open a fresh field of Churchill scholarship.

Hills­dale Col­lege also has a tem­po­rary, exclu­sive pur­chase option for the bal­ance of the col­lec­tion, books writ­ten by Win­ston Churchill. They num­ber over 1200 vol­umes, and 640 are first edi­tions in their coun­try of ori­gin. Sev­en books are signed by Churchill. As a whole, this is the most com­pre­hen­sive Churchill library ever assembled.

Ronald Cohen amidst his groan­ing shelves.

This mate­r­i­al was col­lect­ed over fifty years by Ronald Cohen, author of the Bib­li­og­ra­phy of the Writ­ings of Sir Win­ston Churchill, a three-vol­ume defin­i­tive work list­ing and describ­ing each edi­tion, trans­la­tion, and imprint of every­thing by Churchill ever published.

“Present at the Creation”

I had the priv­i­lege of see­ing “what Cohen wrought” at Ron’s home in Ottawa last Novem­ber. It brought back mem­o­ries because I was “present at the cre­ation.” In 1984, Ron and I toured scores of British book­shops in a friend­ly rival­ry. We took turns at “first choice” in each venue. So in Lyme Reg­is, Ron walks through the door and says, “Do you have any­thing by….” He turns around, and sees a row of The World Cri­sis in its rare orig­i­nal dust jack­ets. “I’ll take those.” Because I was out park­ing the car, I was fuming!

Assem­bling such a col­lec­tion is the work of a life­time. It could not be repro­duced today because the sources have dwin­dled, and many items are one-of-a-kind. It is a trea­sure trove for researchers, stu­dents, and schol­ars. I am very glad also to have been “present at the finale.”

Unique: Clement Attlee’s copy of ‘Lib­er­al­ism and the Social Prob­lem’; body­guard Thompson’s first book in its ultra-rare jack­et; the only ‘Riv­er War’ in the world in its orig­i­nal dust wrap­pers. In the back­ground, one of the ‘African Jour­neys’ is inscribed by Churchill: “Ugan­da is defend­ed by its insects.”

Cohen in His Own Words

Let Ron Cohen explain the unique­ness of his achievement:

“It has vir­tu­al­ly every edi­tion, issue, print­ing, state and vari­ant of every work (save, for obvi­ous rea­sons, The Sec­ond World War), many, per­haps most (but not all) in their orig­i­nal jack­ets. Plus a very large num­ber of trans­la­tions, includ­ing one pre­vi­ous­ly thought not to exist (The World Cri­sis in Ser­bian).

“There are eigh­teen edi­tions of Churchill’s first book, The Sto­ry of the Malakand Field Force (every vari­ant). More African Jour­neys are here than any­where, includ­ing all three vari­ants of the Amer­i­can issue, which is almost unknown. There is every print­ing of every Cas­sell war speech vol­ume in jack­ets (plus Amer­i­can, Cana­di­an and Aus­tralian edi­tions). Includ­ed are 416 Churchill-writ­ten pam­phlets and leaflets.

Who needs the almost unknown Kore­an war mem­oirs? How about a Kore­an stu­dent, com­par­ing the text with the Eng­lish edition?

“No stone was left unturned, includ­ing the Kore­an and pirat­ed Tai­wanese Eng­lish-lan­guage edi­tions of The Sec­ond World War and A His­to­ry of the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples. There is com­plete Hansard for all the years of Churchill’s ser­vice in Par­lia­ment. Hills­dale has acquired the bib­li­o­graph­i­cal­ly Churchill fore­words, intro­duc­tions, let­ters, state­ments, inter­views vir­tu­al­ly unknown today.

* * *

“I have seen vir­tu­al­ly every, if not every, sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion, pri­vate or pub­lic, of WSC’s writ­ings, as a part of my bib­li­o­graph­i­cal research. None of these notable col­lec­tions car­ry the same bib­li­o­graph­i­cal depth. I also vis­it­ed all the great pub­lic libraries with focused Churchill col­lec­tions, such as Trin­i­ty Col­lege and the Fish­er Library at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, the Forsch Col­lec­tion at Dart­mouth, Ful­ton, Lon­gleat, the Schweiz­erische Churchill Stiftung Bib­lio­thek in Zurich, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois Mort­lake Col­lec­tion, and the Churchill Memo­r­i­al Trust Library (Can­ber­ra).

“Also I vis­it­ed the great pub­lic libraries with excel­lent Churchill hold­ings, such as the British Library, Library of Con­gress, Bodleian, House of Com­mons, Houghton Rare Book Library and Widen­er Library at Har­vard, the Bib­lio­thèque Nationale (Paris), the Dundee and Guild­hall Libraries. None were as com­plete as mine. Of course I was on a mis­sion. I felt it was my duty as bib­li­og­ra­ph­er to describe every edi­tion, issue, state, print­ing and variant.

“I do not believe this col­lec­tion could be dupli­cat­ed today. Even back then, it was extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to assem­ble. To col­lect every­thing, one had to know what there was. Would a book­seller have offered a major col­lec­tor the sixth print­ing of Into Bat­tle—or any print­ing oth­er than a first? Is there any­one who’d have looked at Churchill in Ottawa close­ly enough to see whether the date of WSC’s arrival in Ottawa was on the 29th or 30th of Decem­ber (hence two states of that pam­phlet)? Would any­one have offered, or sought to pur­chase, a Colo­nial Malakand with a raised 1 in the page num­ber 231? Or a copy of Vic­to­ry with a miss­ing 1 in page num­ber 177? So it went!”

A Churchilliana Triad

Mul­ti­ple edi­tions and impres­sions of ‘The World Cri­sis’ and ‘Marl­bor­ough.’ The red and blue vol­umes are the Cohen bibliography.

The Cohen Col­lec­tion forms a tri­ad with the recent­ly acquired Mar­tin Gilbert Papers and Sir Martin’s metic­u­lous Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy. His thir­ty-one vol­umes include twen­ty-three vol­umes of doc­u­ments besides Gilbert’s “wodges” of papers, news reports, and, most impor­tant­ly, inter­views for each day of Churchill’s life. Hills­dale ear­li­er acquired the Cohen audio col­lec­tion: the voice of Churchill dat­ing back to 1909. The col­lege is dig­i­tal­iz­ing these for ease of access by scholars.

We thus acquire the Cohen col­lec­tion, or most of it, and, besides, Ron him­self, as a some­time cura­tor, lec­tur­er and speak­er: an invalu­able asset, as I know from experience.

Hills­dale Col­lege launched the Churchill Project to prop­a­gate a right under­stand­ing of Churchill’s record and to bet­ter under­stand his con­tri­bu­tions to state­craft and lead­er­ship. The Project seeks to pro­mote Churchill schol­ar­ship through nation­al con­fer­ences, schol­ar­ships, and oth­er resources. For more infor­ma­tion on the Churchill Project, vis­it its web­site and sub­scribe for mailings.

4 thoughts on “Hillsdale Acquires Cohen Collection of Churchill’s Writings

  1. Music to my ears – thank you Richard! Although I simul­ta­ne­ous­ly hear my wife groan in the back­ground; by expert­ly cham­pi­oning the sig­nif­i­cance and allure of the B to G titles, Ron could very well push my obses­sion beyond just Churchill’s direct works. For my wife’s sake, please ask him to keep it dry! ;)

  2. Thanks kind­ly. Ron Cohen is prepar­ing exact­ly such a set of trea­tis­es, begin­ning with the aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly vital Sec­tions B through G of his Bib­li­og­ra­phy. The the “A” titles (books entire­ly by Churchill) get all the pub­lic­i­ty and com­mand the high­est prices. But the rest (con­tri­bu­tions, fore­words, let­ters to the edi­tor, press state­ments, etc.) com­prise a kind of “hid­den canon”—words not in print since their first, lim­it­ed appear­ance. All this will even­tu­al­ly run on the Hills­dale Churchill web­site.

  3. The Cohen Col­lec­tion is a thing of beau­ty. Wow! I would love to see a com­pre­hen­sive video by Ron, or by your good self, or bet­ter still both of you, intro­duc­ing, dis­cussing and dis­play­ing the rare and first edi­tions of each of Churchill’s works. An online video ver­sion of your excel­lent ‘Connoisseur’s Guide’ (which I spy with my lit­tle eye sit­ting proud­ly on Ron’s shelves).

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