This guide of commonly used terms is derived from John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors.

Edition: “All copies of a book printed at any time or times from one setting-up of type without substantial change, including copies printed from stereotype, electrotype [we must now add ‘computer scanning’] or similar plates made from that setting of type.”

Impression: “The whole number of copies of that edition printed at one time, i.e., without the type or plates being removed from the press.” A particular conundrum was posed by the discovery that the stated third impression of the Colonial Malakand Field Force (pressed November 1898) carried the same extensive textual corrections of the Silver Library Edition (pressed at the same time—indeed both these books used the same sheets). How then to classify the third Colonial? It is clearly not a new impression. Our solution was to make it part of a new entry, not cited by Woods, the “Second Edition,” along with the Silver Library Edition.

State: “When alterations, corrections, additions or excisions are effected in a book during the process of manufacture, so that copies exhibiting variations go on sale on publication day indiscriminately, these variant copies are conveniently classified as belonging to different states of the edition.” Example: the two states of the first English My Early Life.

Issue: “An exception to the above is the regular use of “issue” for variant title pages, usually in respect of the publisher’s imprint…[also] when similar variations can be clearly shown to have originated in some action taken after the book was published, two [or more] issues are distinguished.” Example: the two issues of The People’s Rights, one with an index and appendix, the other with two appendices and no index.

We occasionally sidestep Carter’s strict definitions for clarity. With Savrola, for example, Woods states that the first English “edition” was produced from a set of electroplates made up in Boston, a duplicate set to the First American Edition. The English “edition” might therefore be called an “issue,” but we do not do so because no one else does, including Woods, and because this book is quite distinct in appearance.

Offprints: Carter defines this as “a separate printing of a section of a larger publication,” which is not exactly how modern publishers use it. To us an offprint is a reprint, sometimes reduced but sometimes same-size, of all pages of an earlier printing; for example, the five Canadian offprints of American War Speech volumes from The Unrelenting Struggle through Victory. In earlier years, offprinting was accomplished by using plates from the original—like the Canadian issue of My African Journey—or by reproducing the type on negatives—like the Australian issue of Secret Session Speeches. In the latter case, the offprint usually exhibits heavy looking type, not as finely printed as the original. Typically, offprints are not considered separate editions, but a contretemps arises with modern reprints of long out-of-print works made by photo-reproduction.

Proof copies: From The World Crisis on, proof copies bound in paper wrappers are occasionally encountered. This is a task best left to the bibliographer, except to say that in general they tend to lack illustrations, maps and plans that appear in the published volumes. Although not widely collected, proofs do usually command high prices when they are offered for sale.

Dust Jackets or Dust Wrappers: In America, we generally use the term “dust jacket” to refer to what English bibliophiles usually call a “dust wrapper.” The two terms are interchangeable, though words that describe the parts of the dust jacket, aside from “spine,” are common to both countries:

Flap: the parts of the jacket that fold in around the edge of the boards, front and rear.

Face: The front or back panel of the jacket that you see with the book lying flat in front of you.


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Books vary—especially old books—and one finds variations between identical editions. Except where distinct size differences help to identify various editions or impressions of the same title, one from another, this guide describes books by the traditional cataloguer’s terms.

Folio (Fo.): Very large format, now commonly known as “coffee table” size; among Churchill folio works is the Time-Life two-volume Second World War, measuring 14 x 12 inches (365 x 305mm).

Quarto (4to): Normally lying between folio and octavo in size, though varying considerably in this respect. A telephone directory is quarto; but so is The Island Race, A138(c), which measures 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches (310 x 248mm), although Woods calls it “octavo” and says it measures 12 x 9 1/2! Other quarto volumes are the Danish and Norwegian translations of The Great War, which measure 8 1/2 x 11 1/2.”

Octavo (8vo): The most common size since the early 17th century. A large (demy) octavo is about the size of Frontiers and Wars, (A142/1), which measures 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 inches (232 x 162mm). A small (crown) octavo is about the size of the English Young Winston’s Wars, (A143[a]), which measures 8 3/4 x 5 5/8 inches (222 x 143mm), although Woods calls it “16mo” and says it measures 8 1/2 x 5 1/2.

Duodecimo (12mo, commonly called “twelvemo”): A bit smaller than 8vo, but taller than 16mo; the size of a conventional paperback, say 6 7/8 x 4 1/4 inches (175 x 107mm).

Sextodecimo (16mo, usually pronounced “sixteenmo”): The smallest size of book covered here, this format is shorter, but perhaps wider, than a paperback; for example, the 1915 edition of Savrola, which measures 6 5/8 x 4 1/2 inches (168 x 114mm).

My only other reference to size will be when an obvious difference can be ascertained between related editions or issues. I thought it useful to mention, for example, that the First Edition of Malakand bulks about 1 1/2 inches, while the first Colonial issue bulks only about 1 1/4 inches; and that there’s about a half-inch difference between the first impression Macmillan Aftermath and the later impressions. Even here, the key word is “about,” since old books swell or shrink depending on storage conditions, and many were not uniform to begin with.


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Collectors of editions in foreign languages are enjoying a little-known but rewarding branch of Churchill bibliophilia, not the least for the sometimes magnificent bindings of these works. Notable examples: the Monaco edition of Savrola, Scandinavian editions of The Great War and the Belgian French edition of The Second World War. Foreign translations also often differ importantly from the English editions, depending on what Churchill wished to emphasize or downplay. For example, in The Official Biography, Sir Martin Gilbert records that the Dutch, through Churchill’s foreign-language impresario Emery Reves, were offended by no mention in The Grand Alliance of the activities of Dutch submarines in the Allied cause. Churchill replied that he would make no alteration in his English text but had no objection to an amplifying footnote on this subject in the Dutch edition, which was duly entered. (Winston S. Churchill, Vol. VIII, “Never Despair,” London: Heinemann 1988 page 549). While we have not gone into great descriptive detail, we have indicated the broad reach of Churchill’s foreign translations.


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Three works are commonly referred to in this guide.

Woods is shorthand for A Bibliography of the Works of Sir Winston Churchill, KG, OM, CH by the late Frederick Woods, the Second Revised Edition, second issue (Godalming, Surrey: St. Paul’s Bibliographies 1975). Woods recognized that his work needed updating, and was beginning work on a new edition before his untimely death in 1994.
The pioneering Churchill bibliographer, Woods published his first edition in 1963, astonishing not only bibliophiles but also the Churchill family with the number of items he uncovered. Dissatisfaction with the completeness and accuracy of his work was inevitable as time passed, and Woods, to whom many of us passed our corrections and suggestions, characteristically recognized this. He was hoping to rectify the situation before his death. He can truly be said to have inspired everyone who has researched or seriously collected the works of Churchill.

Cohen is the new Ronald Cohen Bibliography, published by Continuum, a product of more than twenty-five years’ labour by the author, aided and abetted by scores of bibliophiles and, through the pages of Finest Hour, journal of The Churchill Centre.

Both Woods, before he died, and Cohen kindly gave permission to quote their bibliographic numbers here as a cross-reference.

ICS refers to a publication of the International Churchill Societies, Churchill Bibliographic Data, Part 1 (“Works by Churchill”). Pending release of the update, which he did not succeed in publishing, Woods also permitted the International Churchill Society to publish an “Amplified list” based on his numbers, but with more detailed sub-designations to pinpoint the various editions and issues. For example, The World Crisis has assigned three “Woods” numbers: A31(a) through A31(c). The ICS “Amplified Woods list” runs from A31a through A31k in order to distinguish certain deservingly distinct editions and issues. Except for deleting the parentheses, in no case did ICS alter any basic Woods numbers. For example, even Blenheim, which undeservedly holds Woods number A40(c)— it is only an excerpt, and probably should not be among the “A” titles at all—is retained by ICS. Thus, “ICS” numbers are merely an extension of Woods numbers.



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