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'A Master of Our Language'

The English language has known many masters but no one can dispute that in the 20th century, Winston Churchill is among the greats. Many of Churchill's compelling speeches and other writings are in the collections of the Library of Congress.

"Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain," United Nations Information Office, New York, 1942? John Rubens Smith, artist. "West Front of the U.S. Capitol,

In 1954 the Copyright Office Reference Division undertook the monumental task of compiling a complete bibliography of all the works of Winston Churchill that were registered in the U. S. Copyright Office from 1898 to 1953.

On June 25, 1954, a few hours after Churchill's arrival in Washington and in the presence of President Dwight Eisenhower at the White House, a handsomely bound, gold-lettered copy of the 35-page bibliography was presented to Sir Winston by Acting Librarian of Congress Verner Clapp, Register of Copyrights Arthur Fisher and Reference Division Chief Richard MacCarteney, under whose direction the bibliography was prepared. The dedication page, personally signed by each of the presenters, reads as follows: "To The Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Churchill, K. G. in his character as Voluminous Author on the occasion of his visit to the White House, June 25, 1954, this list of his writings recorded in the Copyright Office of the United States."

Accepting the volume, the prime minister remarked that he still had a "modest" work to add to his bibliography -- a history of the English-speaking peoples in some 800,000 words! In a follow-up letter to the prime minister, Fisher recalled this statement and said, "We look forward eagerly to receiving this and many other of your literary and artistic works for protection under the copyright laws of this country and registration in this Office."

The message from Fisher also included a letter from MacCarteney outlining the basis upon which the bibliography was developed. MacCarteney explained, "The bibliography was not the result of any special request. ... It grew out of a realization of the tremendous effect Sir Winston Churchill's utterances have had upon world history and thus our obligation to develop as nearly complete a copyright record of them as possible. Later it seemed felicitous to have bound a unique copy for presentation to the great man."

MacCarteney's letter was prepared at Fisher's request after Churchill asked Fisher why the bibliography had been prepared. During the presentation at the White House ceremony, Fisher promised Churchill that he would send him an explanation.

The bibliography identified 556 registrations, including American and English book publications and contributions to English periodicals; contributions to magazines in the United States; separately copyrighted installments and syndications of the Churchill Memoirs and World War II; prints, photographs, reproductions of works of art and even three musical compositions.

A copy of the Churchill bibliography together with a framed, autographed letter of
appreciation for the gift were prominently displayed 11 years later in a special Library exhibit, "In Memoriam: Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965," which was mounted in 1965 after his death on Jan. 24, 1965.

In anticipation of increased public interest in the works of Sir Winston Churchill after his death, the Reference Division prepared an update of the bibliography. In 1966 a copy was forwarded to his family "as a token of respect for a master of our language." Records in the U.S. Copyright Office are available at its Web site.

The Library recently honored Churchill's extraordinary contributions to statesmanship in the exhibition "Churchill and the Great Republic." Although the exhibition closed in July 2004, you can view it online, as one of more than 50 virtual exhibitions now available.

To see the complete list, go to the Exhibitions main home page. From "Scrolls from the Dead Sea," the discovery of America and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence to "Bob Hope and American Variety," "The Dream of Flight" and "Frank Lloyd Wright," the exhibitions of the Library of Congress are as diverse and marvelous as the collections of the Library itself.

A great place to start your explorations is in "American Treasures of the Library of Congress," which features many of the rarest and most interesting items in the world's largest library.


A."Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain," United Nations Information Office, New York, 1942? Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USW33-019093-C (b&w film neg.); Call No.: LC-USW33- 019093-C [P&P]

B. John Rubens Smith, artist. "West Front of the U.S. Capitol," ca. 1830. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction No.: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-3671

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