London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1979. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition with two typed, signed letters from the author to his proof-reader. The Official Biography of Winston Churchill, initiated by Randolph Churchill but completed by Martin Gilbert, is an epic piece of scholarship about a singularly epic life, comprising eight mammoth main text volumes and - so far - eighteen accompanying document or "Companion" volumes. The eight main text volumes were published between 1966 and 1988. Publication of the Companion volumes was completed in 2019.
The British first editions of the Companion volumes for Volume V of the Official Biography are among the most keenly sought and prohibitive to acquire of all first edition Official Biography volumes. There was only a single printing in England and the Volume V Companions were published in smaller quantities than other Companion volumes. Here is an author’s presentation copy of the first of the three Volume V Companions, the British first edition, only printing. The volume contains documents from the years 1922 to 1929, from the time when Churchill left the Liberal Party, rejoined the Tories, and became Chancellor of the Exchequer (1924-1929).
This copy came to us with two letters about the volume from the author, Sir Martin Gilbert, to Lloyd L. Thomas, one of the author’s proofreaders. Thomas is specifically thanked by name by the author in the Acknowledgements, page xxii, for “help in proof-reading.” The author’s first signed letter to Thomas, dated 31 August 1978, is both lengthy and substantive. Much of the letter concerns the challenges and tasks attendant to publication of this document volume. In the letter’s fourth paragraph, Gilbert discusses the pressure placed upon him by his publisher to limit biographic text about the war years to 700 pages. Gilbert states in his letter “I cannot imagine how it will be done.” Indeed, it was not done and the historian trumped the publisher. Gilbert would ultimately write two Official Biography main text volumes chronicling Churchill’s war years, each considerably longer than 700 pages. Gilbert closes with a request for further proof-reading assistance from Thomas with the final page proofs of this document volume. The letter is hand-signed “with kind regards, | yours sincerely, | Martin Gilbert”.
The second letter, dated 21 September 1978, clearly indicates that Thomas consented to further proof-reading of the volume for Gilbert. Gilbert writes: “Thank you so much for the further proofs…” Gilbert talks about handing over the next two document volumes to the printer and solicits Thomas’ further assistance: “If, when the winter nights are on us, you feel like tackling some more, there will certainly be no shortage of printed pages!” The letter is hand-signed “yours most sincerely | Martin Gilbert.” Thomas clearly assented to Gilbert’s request for further proof-reading, as he is thanked in the acknowledgements of the next two document volumes as well.
Condition is very good in a very good dust jacket. The mammoth red cloth binding remains square and intact with sharp corners and bright spine gilt. We note very light scuffing and shelf wear. The contents remain bright with no previous ownership marks. Spotting and soiling is confined to the page edges. The red-stained top edge is mildly sunned to dark pink. The dust jacket is complete, with no losses or tears. There were two prices on the lower front dust jacket flap, an introductory price good “until 1st February, 1981” and a higher price above. Both prices remain intact. We note very light soiling and overall toning, but no sunning of the spine text. The dust jacket is protected in a removable, archival quality clear cover. Condition of both letters is excellent, both neatly creased from previous folds, but otherwise unmarked. Please note that this large, heavy book may require additional postage.
Reference: Zoller A302e1. Item #003199