A collection of treasured titles and untold stories
The inscribed book collection in the drawing room at Chartwell consists of 898 titles in some 920 volumes. They include inscriptions from friends, family and well-wishers along with presentation copies from authors who were genuine friends and colleagues. Since being in the care of the National Trust, many of these books have remained unopened with their stories yet to be told.
A number of volumes in the collection have great individual cultural or historical value, which give a powerful impression of what a public institution Churchill became. Taken as a whole, together with the associated letters from their authors in the Churchill archive, it is a core section of a formidable library with considerable research possibilities.
Some of the well-known authors in the collection include Sir Alfred Munnings, one of England’s finest painters of horses, Grandma Moses, renowned folk artist and Barbara Cartland, English author of romance novels.
" I inscribe this copy of my book to our great Statesman, writer and artist, the one and only Winston Churchill"
Unique and rare copies
Some of the highlights of the collection are incredibly rare, with, to our knowledge, only a small handful left in the world.
One such example is the complete run of the Churchill gazette, a newspaper produced in Brussels between 1941-1944, inscribed with a list of contributors to the magazine who died in the war.
Another rare book is Per Ardua Libertas, a beautifully produced catalogue of some of the escape aids produced by M19 under the control of Hutton. Only three copies of this catalogue are known in libraries.
There are various books inscribed by Churchill’s father Randolph, many of which are full of history – seemingly aimed at broadening the knowledge of his son both on British and foreign history. Such topics include A history of the United States Navy, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada and Richard III.
Just for fun
Not all the books are for educational or political purposes. Other less serious books in the collection include Talking Budgerigars, a guide to teaching your bird how to speak, and A Golden Treasury of Dogs - signed by the unknown Refus and Pam.
One of the more unusual inscribed books is ‘Mourka; the autobiography of a cat’. Proof that cats and their owners did not need the internet to become famous, the book details the life and escapades of Mourka the dancing cat and friends via photos and humorous captions. It is even signed by Mourka the cat himself (though we suspect his owner, choreographer George Balanchine may have helped with the penmanship).
Above are just as a few of the many titles we hope to save with our Keep Churchill at Chartwell appeal. Many volumes are yet to be opened and studied by the National Trust, meaning a whole world of research opportunities still await us. There is still more we could learn about this great Statesman and these books may hold the key.
Donate today and help us save Churchill's books for the nation.