CHURCHILL IN HIBERNATION, WEEK 7
We have decided to tiptoe out of hibernation and celebrate the impending 80th Anniversary of Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister in May 1940.
Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940. Germany had just invaded France. Britain would soon stand alone. From his first day in charge, ever onwards, Churchill’s wisdom, wit, bravery and profoundly humane spirit guided the British people, and the world, to ultimate victory. Churchill’s clear-headedness in the face of catastrophe, his resolution to inspire by appealing to the very best in those around him, remains an object lesson in leadership.
To celebrate the impending 80th Anniversary of Churchill taking charge, we are joining with Sotheby’s for a commemorative auction comprised of treasures entirely from Chartwell Booksellers — 100 lots of rare books, photographs and manuscripts embracing the entirety of Churchill’s long life and career.
The auction, titled “CHURCHILL IN CHARGE / 80th ANNIVERSARY” will commence on May 10 and run for ten days on Sotheby’s website. The lots will not be visible there until shortly before the 10th.
Winston Churchill loved bookstores. One could compose a thorough history of London bookselling merely by reconstructing the history of all those shops that Churchill frequented. He seems to have paid his first personal bookstore bill as a 26-year-old, on December 4, 1900, in the amount of seventeen pounds-seventeen shillings-and-sixpence to his father’s favorite bookseller, the venerable James Bain. This bill extended to purchases by young Winston as far back as 1897. Upon clearing it, he immediately bought more books from Bain, including copies of Rawlinson’s History of Herodotus, Morley’s Walpole, and Newman’s Apologia. His Bain acquisitions over the next two years would include two sets of his father’s speeches and a copy of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine bought right after it was published.
It would appear that Winston Churchill’s final peacetime book purchase before the onset of World War II was from the only bookstore he patronized that remains in business today, the esteemed Hatchard’s of Picadilly. In February 1939 Churchill bought two copies of The Bible as Literature from Hatchard’s, a fascinating choice when one considers the impending influence of the bible as literature on the power of Churchill’s great speeches of the war.
We’d like to think that Churchill’s bookstores in some small way contributed to Churchill’s ascent and ultimate success as Prime Minister. Here’s to Hatchard’s, a toast from Chartwell Booksellers, for the longevity of bookstores everywhere, and their continuing centrality in helping to educate leaders and making them truly great.
As ever, our continued wishes for your good health and safety.
You are celebrating bookstores and Winston Churchill simply by reading this.
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