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News From the Front

June 22, 2013


Volumes VII and VIII have arrived.


Over the course of our 30-year existence, many of our biggest celebrations here at Chartwell Booksellers were reserved for the completion of a new volume by Martin Gilbert in his (and Randolph Churchill’s) Official Biography of Winston Churchill. Volume VI: Finest Hour 1939-1941 was published the year we opened in 1983 and set off one of our very first in-store celebrations. In December 1986, we hosted Martin Gilbert in the store for an elaborate cocktail reception on the publication of Volume VII: Road to Victory 1941-1945. Two years later, we toasted the arrival of Volume VIII: Never Despair 1945-1965 and the completion of Sir Martin's monumental enterprise.

Who knew that we would get to revisit this completion celebration? For some years now, Hillsdale College Press has been painstakingly reissuing the Official Biography (the entirety of which had shamefully been allowed to slip out of print). Hillsdale's noble undertaking not only had Martin Gilbert’s support, it was executed under his supervision.

This week, the end of this new beginning was reached, with the reissued reappearance of Volume VII and Volume VIII. Yes, there are more Companion Volumes to come (for an explanation of that arcane term, just click on it). But the main text of the Official Biography is now, blessedly, back in print.

As if in commemoration (it really is eerie how these events often play out here at Chartwell), an utterly unique, original Signed First English Edition set of the Official Biography has just arrived at the store: Volumes I and II are signed and inscribed on the title pages by Randolph Churchill to the great film star Douglas Fairbanks (whose bookplates appear on the front pastedowns). Volumes III, IV and V are each signed and inscribed on their front free endpapers by Clementine Churchill. (The words: "April - 92 age” are jotted just above the inscription in Volume IV, which dates the signature to 1977. Clementine Churchill was born on April 1, 1885 and died on December 12, 1977, at the age of 92.) Though the hand is shaky, the fact that Clementine Churchill did indeed sign volumes of the Official Biography is quite surprising. Finally, Volume VII has been neatly signed on the title page by Martin Gilbert.

While we can say with certainty that this set was pieced together from different sources, rather than signed all at once, it is without question the most unusual signed set that we have encountered in thirty years. It arrives at just the right moment.


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