London: George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1938/1940. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the precursor to Churchill's great war speeches, the British first edition in the rare yellow dust jacket issued just after Churchill became Prime Minister. The book contains a collection of speeches spanning the years 1928 to 1938 criticizing British foreign policy, his warnings and exhortations both prophetic and largely unheeded. 5,000 copies of this first and only British impression were printed, of which at least 3,381 and perhaps more than 4,000 were sold with the pale blue, first state dust jacket. The balance - no more than 1,619 copies and quite likely fewer - were offered at a lower price in June 1940 bearing a striking yellow dust jacket.
Because the price was reduced with the yellow dust jacket, this has often been called by bibliographers the "Cheap" issue. Given that Churchill had just become Prime Minister in May 1940, it might be more fittingly called the "I Told You So" issue. The yellow dust jackets were issued on laid paper printed red on the front face and spine with a blank rear face and rear flap. Given the inherent sensitivities of the yellow paper and red print, the paper is quite susceptible to soiling and the red spine lettering is nearly always quite faded. Today these yellow, wartime dust jackets are quite rare, considerably scarcer than their pale blue first issue counterparts.
This dust jacket retains bright spine lettering, though the spine is toned and soiled with shallow, irregular strip loss at the spine head and lesser loss to the lower hinge corners. The front face remains bright, despite soiling, corner wear, and a .5 inch (1.3 cm) closed tear at the upper center. The rear face is soiled, but complete apart from corner wear and fractional chipping to the bottom edge. The front flap is neatly price-clipped. The dust jacket is protected with a removable, clear, archival cover.
The book itself is very good plus. The sole previous ownership mark - a contemporary gift inscription from the month this dust jacket was issued - helps date the issue of the yellow dust jacket to very early June, less than a month after Churchill became wartime Prime Minister: "With best wishes and many thanks for your services on Wednesday, 5th June, 1940. From Margaret & Alan." The dark blue cloth binding is clean, tight, and square with sharp corners and bright spine gilt. Mild sunning is confined to the spine head, corresponding with the shallow strip loss to the dust jacket and confirming that this book and jacket have spent life together. The contents are substantially clean and respectably bright. Internally, spotting is confined to the endpapers and prelims. The blue-stained top edge is a bit dulled, as is typical, but uniformly so. The fore edge and bottom edge are moderately age-toned and spotted.
The world remembers the resolute war leader to whom the British turned, but it is easy to overlook Churchill’s “wilderness years” of the 1930s, which Churchill spent out of power and out of favor, persistently warning about the growing Nazi threat and routinely at odds with both his own Conservative Party leadership and prevailing public sentiment. It is instructive to note that this book was published three months before the morally specious and politically futile concessions of the Munich Agreement. Churchill bibliographer Frederick Woods called this edition of Churchill’s speeches "probably the most crucial volume of speeches that he ever published". As testimony to the book's importance, a copy of the U.S. edition lay on "President Roosevelt's bedside table, with key passages, including an analysis of the president's peace initiative, underscored." (William Manchester's The Last Lion, Volume II, p.305).
Reference: Cohen A107.3, Woods/ICS A44(a), Langworth p.192. Item #001783