London: The Diner's Club, 1974. "Centenary First Edition" Full leather. This time capsule is the finely bound “Centenary First Edition” of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, a pristine, as-new set that was held in the Cassell and Company Limited archives, perfectly preserved within the original cardboard mailing cartons. For the 1974 hundredth anniversary of Churchill’s birth, the Diner’s Club in London undertook publication of a fine edition of seven of Churchill’s ‘major works’ (comprising 25 volumes) spanning Lord Randolph Churchill (2 vols., first published in 1906) through A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (4 vols., first published 1956-58). Sold on a subscription basis, this is one of only two collected editions of Churchill's works.
Unlike the simultaneous Library of Imperial History’s The Collected Works of Sir Winston Churchill, this Centenary Edition collection did not include early war campaign volumes and pre and post-WWII political speech volumes. Also unlike The Collected Works, the Centenary Edition did not have sequential spine numbers throughout the set, so that each work can stand alone without appearing “orphaned” from the larger set. The Centenary Edition content is truer to original texts than The Collected Works; each was offprinted from first or early editions (except The Second World War, which used Churchill’s corrected text).
They were handsomely bound in a strikingly deep-grained full burgundy morocco with the gilt initials "WSC" centered on the top board within an elaborate gilt-ruled and decorated border. The hubbed spines feature double gilt-ruled compartments interspersed with three black leather spine labels for author, volume title, and 'Centenary First Edition'. "WSC" is also blocked in gilt on the spine. The volumes feature all gilt page edges, gilt-tooled turn-ins (dentelles) framing maroon moire endpapers, ribbon page markers, head and foot bands, and the iconic 1941 Karsh photograph of Churchill as a frontispiece, tipped-on opposite the title page. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was the seventh and final of the Diner’s Club Centenary Edition major works. The work was first published by Cassell and Company Ltd., who still held the copyright; the Centenary Edition copyright pages explicitly state “This edition published by arrangement with Cassell and Co. Ltd.”
This particular set was held in the Cassell archives. Each volume is in as-new, pristine condition, each in its original cardboard shipping box, as it was ostensibly delivered to Cassell nearly half a century ago. Even the cardboard shipping boxes are surprisingly clean, the staples showing no corrosion, each box printed with the title, volume number, and a publisher’s stock number.
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was Churchill’s last major published work, tracing a great historical arc from Roman Britain through the end of the Nineteenth Century, ending with the death of Queen Victoria. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the very year that saw Churchill conclude his first North American lecture tour, take his first seat in Parliament, and begin to make history himself. The cultural commonality and vitality of English-speaking peoples animated Churchill’s long life, from his Victorian youth in an ascendant British Empire to his twilight in the midst of the American century.
Churchill began A History of the English-Speaking Peoples in the 1930s, completing a draft of "about half a million words" which was set aside when Churchill returned to the Admiralty and to war in September 1939. The work was fittingly interrupted by an unprecedented alliance among the English-speaking peoples during the Second World War - an alliance Churchill personally did much to cultivate and sustain. The interruption continued as Churchill bent his literary efforts to his six-volume history, The Second World War, and then his remaining political energies to his final premiership from 1951-1955.
Reference: Cohen AA2.22-25, Woods/ICS AA2, Langworth p.369. Item #004606