London: Library of Imperial History, 1974. First edition, only printing. Full leather. We are pleased to offer this spectacular, full, 38-volume set of The Collected Works of Sir Winston Churchill, including the four-volume Collected Essays. This is one of the precious few sets magnificently bound in in full red Morocco goatskin rather than the standard natural vellum.
This example – one of only 20 sets bound thus – is in exceptional, genuinely fine condition. We find no wear, toning, soiling, spotting, ownership marks, or any other reportable defects among any of the 38 volumes. The red leather slipcases show only occasional trivial shelf scuffing and tiny bumps.
The Collected Works was a lavish production timed to commemorate the 1974 centenary of Churchill's birth. The set comprised 34 volumes, including all of Churchill’s book-length published works. In 1976, the publisher made a welcome addition to The Collected Works; the four-volume Collected Essays of Sir Winston Churchill compile most of Churchill’s major forewords and periodical contributions, some of which can otherwise be found only in the myriad original publications.
Nearly all 38-volume Collected Works and Collected Essays sets were bound in natural calfskin vellum with 22 ct. gold titling, the Churchill Arms in gilt on the front cover, gilt page edges, green marbled endpapers, green and gold head and foot bands, and green satin ribbon markers. The contents were printed on special 500-year archival paper. Each volume was housed in a green leather slipcase.
But not this set. In his Connoisseur's Guide to the Books of Sir Winston Churchill, Richard Langworth tells the fascinating tale of how just a handful of sets – perhaps less than one percent - came to be bound in red Morocco.
The Collected Works publisher intended to produce 3000 sets. However, evidence suggests that only a number in the low 2000s were produced before the publisher’s insolvency. When the publisher folded in the late 1970s, the remaining unsold sets disappeared. In 1982, Richard Langworth began what would prove to be a half-decade-long effort to recover the lost sets. A few years of circuitous detective work led to the discovery that the bindery used by the publisher retained about "about 100 sets" of unbound sheets of Collected Works. Moreover, the bindery had made up 20 sets "not in vellum but in red morocco... more handsome and durable than the vellum." These had been commissioned by an "unknown New York entrepreneur" who had "apparently bought the sheets" following the bankruptcy. The saga did not end with the discovery. The owner had "disappeared, leaving a huge bindery bill for the 20 sets in red morocco." It took additional years to clear the legal hurdles requisite to release the bound and unbound sets. Only in 1987 did Langworth finally prevail in acquiring the sets. (See Langworth, pages 364-365.)
While all Collected Works sets are lovely, these precious few red Morocco-bound sets truly stand out. The red Morocco is coveted not only for its exponentially greater scarcity, but also because it is considerably more appealing to both the eye and the hand. The gilt lettering and decoration exactly match those of the vellum bindings, but the slipcases are in red leather rather than green, and do not carry the Churchill Arms. The endpapers are beautifully textured heavy red stock, bordered on the inside front cover by elaborately gilt dentelle turn-ins. The satin ribbon markers are red and the head and foot bands are red and gold.
Some understandably quibble about the editions used and revisions included in The Collected Works. Few contest that the set testifies handsomely to the life’s literary labors of the man who “already in 1900” had “written as many books as Moses” and did not stop writing them for the next half century “except when momentarily interrupted by war”. (WSC, remarks of 4 July 1950) Three years after his gently irreverent comparison of his authorship to that of Moses, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Bound thus, in full red Morocco with their accompanying slipcases, these 38 volumes take up nearly six feet of shelf space and weigh more than 110 pounds. Even without the four volumes of Collected Essays, the 34 Collected Works volumes comprise five million words printed on 19,000 pages.
This large, heavy set will be packed with care and shipped at cost, depending on the buyer's destination and shipping preference.
Bibliographic reference: Cohen AA1, Woods/ICS AA1, Langworth pages 362-369. Item #006831