“The Gathering Storm:” The 70th Anniversary
Churchill's Second World War Memoirs Begin
Seventy years ago, The Gathering Storm, Winston Churchill’s first War Memoir volume, was published here in the U.S. on June 21, 1948. Easily overlooked, this compelling anniversary was revealed to us recently, as we researched a new acquisition: A complete Second World War set of signed first editions inscribed by Winston Churchill to the then-editor of Life magazine, Andrew Heiskell.
75,000 copies of The Gathering Storm were printed for that first edition. All had sold out three days before publication. Another 350,000 copies were printed for distribution by the Book-of-the-Month Club; the largest club print run ever. Henry Luce and Time Inc. had meanwhile secured serialization rights for Life magazine, Time’s glossy, photocentric junior partner, which ran its first excerpt on April 16, two months before the book hit the streets in the U.S. (It was published weeks later in the U.K.)
Andrew Heiskell had gone to work at Life magazine in 1938 at the age of 23 as a science editor. In 1946, aged 30, he was named Life‘s publisher. Heiskell continued to rise rapidly through the ranks, finally becoming Time Inc.’s chairman and CEO in 1960. He lived to oversee the closing down of Life in 1972 and, in 1974, the inauguration of People magazine, which was essentially his brainchild.
Heiskell, as Life‘s publisher, was gifted by Winston Churchill with these first edition volumes. Laid-into Volume I is a pre-printed presentation slip: “With all good wishes from Winston S. Churchill.” Volumes IV and VI are each inscribed and SIGNED “To Andrew Heiskell from Winston S. Churchill,” hand-dated by Churchill “1951” and “1954,” respectively. Also laid-into Volume IV is a typed note on Time & Life notepaper from Walter Graebner, Time magazine’s first foreign correspondent and a go-between for the company with Churchill as he wrote his War Memoirs: “Dear Bob, I am sending you a copy of the ‘Hinge of Fate’ inscribed to you by Mr. Churchill.”
“Let’s always remember,” Heiskell would tell his staff, “that the Churchill Memoirs are the biggest literary and historical project that Life, or for that matter any other publication, has ever undertaken.”