Stamford Connecticut: The Overbrook Press, 1942. Limited Edition. unbound sheets. This an intriguing time capsule – a set of the publisher’s unbound sheets of the limited edition of Churchill's famous first address to the U.S. Congress, which he delivered only weeks after Pearl Harbor. Frank Altschul’s Overbrook Press printed 1,000 copies, of which only a handful were left thus, the gathered, folded signatures uncut, untrimmed, and unbound. We secured the six known remaining sets of unbound sheets from the Connecticut bookseller who acquired them from the publisher’s original stock.
This edition used a substantial and attractive .14 mm thick white wove watermarked paper printed in black and red. This unbound set of sheets comprises three quarto-folded signatures (each folded twice to create eight contents pages) laid into a blank, quarto-folded outer wrapper of identical paper stock. The three signatures bearing the printed contents are immaculate, with only the protective outer wrapper showing minor soiling and a few small rust marks.
While the contents were quite handsome, the publisher’s original binding was an unremarkable dark red cloth with a pasted paper label on the front cover. These original sheets may be bound by the new owner for the first time. Alternatively, they may be left as they are in the dark red cloth folder we supply, specifically commissioned to ensure continued protection of the unbound sheets. The folder features a gilt-stamped black leather front cover label. The speech is secured inside the folder within a removable protective mylar sleeve held by satin ribbon corners facing a full description of this item, also secured within mylar and by satin ribbon corners.
In the days after the Japanese attack, the United States formally entered the Second World War, marking the end of Britain's solitary stand against Hitler's Germany, which it had sustained since the fall of France. Churchill immediately decided to travel to the United States, and on December 12, 1941 he boarded the battleship Duke of York and began the 10-day trip across the Atlantic - a perilous journey at a time when German U-Boats plagued the North Atlantic. Churchill addressed the U.S. Congress on the 26th and the Canadian Parliament on the 30th.
Churchill's speech to Congress was sober, resolved, and eloquently defiant, but of course also featured the sparkle of Churchillian wit, which was irrepressible even in the dark hours of the war: "I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own." His speech was an important personal introduction to the elected leaders he needed to embrace the alliance so vital to his nation.
Frank Altschul (1887-1981) was one of the most successful financiers of his time, with a keen interest in books, public affairs, and philanthropy. Among many philanthropic contributions, Altschul was a co-founder and the first chairman of the Yale Library Associates, which oversees all Yale libraries and built the Beinecke Library that houses rare books, many of them gifts of Altschul. In public affairs, Altschul was a director of the English-Speaking Union, and served for many years as vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and as vice president and secretary of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Interested in printing since he was a boy, Altschul improbably established Overbrook Press in an abandoned pigpen on his 450-acre Connecticut estate. From such humble origins, Overbrook Press specialized in exquisitely printed and illustrated limited edition books for collectors, with a reputation among bibliophiles for fine typography and careful bookmaking.
Reference: Cohen A163.7, Woods A84(c). Item #004718