Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill Confers with Proofreader on Biography of His Ancestor

Winston Churchill Confers with Proofreader on Biography of His Ancestor

“Our plan is to print in old style events clearly English in their preponderance, and in new style those that are clearly Continental.”

In this brief letter to the chief copy editor for his publishers, Winston Churchill seeks advice on how to handle dates. Churchill was at work on his four-volume biography of his ancestor, John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). The specific problem was how to express typographically the variance between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar.

Beginning in 1582, the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian in Roman Catholic countries, but the change occurred much later in Protestant countries. For England, Wales, and the British colonies, the change of calendars occurred in 1752, well after the Duke of Marlborough’s death. Therefore, author Churchill was faced with a dilemma on how to express in type the two dates for a single event—the date for Great Britain and the different date for most of Continental Europe.

WINSTON CHURCHILL, Typed Letter Signed, to Charles C. Wood, May 9, 1933.  1 p., 8" x 10", on “Chartwell” stationery.  Expected folds; very good.

Excerpt
“What do you advise about the old style and new style printing? Our plan is to print in old style events clearly English in their preponderance, and in new style those that are clearly Continental. When a date affects both England and the Continent we print both styles i.e. 4 – 14, 8 -18. How should this be printed? Should it be with a diagonal line, or 4 on top of the 14 like a fraction, or 4 with 14 in brackets as you have done in certain dual dates. The complication of the year also sometimes comes in. It is very tiresome to the reader and should be minimized. Pray state what typography you advise.”
    

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was born to a British father and American mother at his family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire, England. After education at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Churchill served as an army officer in India and Africa and became an accomplished writer. Over a political career that spanned fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions, including First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915 and again from 1939 to 1940. In 1922, Churchill bought the manor house of Chartwell in Kent, and he later spent most of his retirement there. During the 1930s, he took the lead in warning against Nazi Germany’s hostile ambitions. He served as Prime Minister from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. His speeches inspired British resistance to Nazi Germany, especially in 1940-1941, when the United Kingdom stood almost alone against Adolf Hitler. After suffering a serious stroke in 1953, he retired from political office in 1955. In 1963, he became the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.

Charles C. Wood (1875-1959) joined the publishing firm of George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., in 1912. He served as chief copy editor on Churchill’s monumental biography, Marlborough: His Life and Times, published in four volumes between 1933 and 1938.  In 1948, Churchill hired the retired Wood to proofread his massive multi-volume work, The Second World War. Wood joined Churchill’s staff of secretaries, research assistants, and advisors. Wood became “an essential member of the team and no error escaped his eye.” Wood was as abrasive as Churchill was demanding, and Churchill once called Wood “indefatigable, interminable, intolerable.” The process of proofreading both The Second World War and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was called “wooding.”


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Item: 67391

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Winston Churchill
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