London: Library of Imperial History, 1976. First edition. Hardcover. This is a full, four volume set of the first and only edition of Winston S. Churchill’s Collected Essays. This set is triply noteworthy – for exceptional condition, for a binding variation, and for being signed in the House of Commons by Winston S. Churchill’s namesake grandson. Inked in blue in three lines below his printed name following his Foreword, the prime minister’s grandson signed “Winston S. Churchill | House of Commons | 13 September 1991”.
Winston S. Churchill (1940-2010) was born into the conflict that defined his grandfather - exactly five months after his grandfather became wartime prime minister, just before the victorious conclusion to the Battle of Britain. He was the son of his grandfather’s only son, Randolph S. Churchill, and Pamela Digby. Like his father and grandfather before him, the grandson was a journalist, author, and politician, serving as a Conservative Member of Parliament for 27 years, from 1970 to 1997.
In 1976, the Library of Imperial History issued The Collected Essays of Sir Winston Churchill as a welcome follow-up to the Collected Works, which included only book-length publications. Both the content and aesthetics of this four-volume set are compelling. The set compiles most of Churchill's major forewords and periodical contributions, some of which can be otherwise found only in the original periodical publications. The essays are sorted by subject and each of the volumes has a theme - Churchill and War, Churchill and Politics, Churchill and People, and Churchill at Large.
As Michael Wolff observed in his Introduction, the tally of Churchill’s published books, speeches, and articles, “…only touches the surface of Churchill’s literary industry… he wrote more than 300 essays, a few as prefaces to books, but most of them for newspapers and magazines… the essays are contemporaneous and unvarnished, unpolished by hindsight. There is a freshness and immediacy about them…” In addition to the virtue of their content, The Collected Essays are aesthetically appealing.
The production quality is impressive. The text is printed on special 500-year archival paper and decorated with marbled endpapers, gilt top edge, and head and foot bands. There were two standard binding options for The Collected Essays - both sumptuous. The one offered here (the "Centenary Edition") is quarter blue morocco over blue cloth as opposed to the white vellum in which full sets of the Collected Works were typically bound. As a stand-alone set, the quarter blue morocco binding may be preferred. The binding is both attractive and more durable than the white vellum, which tends to age poorly.
Nearly all of the sets bound thus we have encountered feature faux marble endpapers in a blue and white veined pattern. This particular set was bound by the publisher with quite striking and distinctly superior genuine marbled endpapers in a swirled pattern featuring white, red, and varying hues of blue. Condition of this set is fine. The bindings are square, clean, bright, and tight with sharp corners and no reportable wear. The contents appear immaculate, with no marks other than the aforementioned signature of the author’s namesake grandson.
Reference: Cohen A286, Woods/ICS A146(b), Langworth p.355. Item #006511