London: George Newnes Limited, 1935. First Illustrated edition. Hardcover. This is a time capsule set of the first illustrated edition of Churchill's history of the First World War, an especially clean and bright set of the striking Home Library issue still housed in the publisher's original shipping box and wrapped in the previously unconfirmed publisher’s dust jackets. This is the only set thus we have offered, or indeed of which we are aware.
Churchill originally published his history between 1923 and 1931 in six volumes titled The World Crisis. This first illustrated edition was published in 26 magazine format parts in 1933 and 1934. "Magazine format" does not do justice to the publication, which is profusely illustrated on very durable, heavy paper. The publisher subsequently offered two different 3-volume binding options. A final publisher offering in 1935 was this four-volume set produced jointly with The Home Library Book Company. This last binding option is the most elaborate and striking. It features silver, gilt, and blind stamped decoration on marbled red boards with beveled edges, marbled endpapers, and gilt top edges. This binding commands attention on the shelf.
What particularly commands attention about this set - and indeed makes it a minor bibliographic discovery - is the presence of thick, clear visqueen-type jackets with heavy red paper flaps that nicely complement the red marbled endpapers. These jackets are previously unknown to the collecting community and even to bibliographers. We have only seen one other set of these jackets, which were unprotected by the publisher’s original box and badly yellowed, shrunken, and chipped, and could not be definitively confirmed as original. The presence of this set of jackets in the publisher’s original shipping box decisively settles the question.
These jackets are in good condition. The main problem is cracking owing to shrinkage over time, which has left the Volume III jacket with a front flap fold split and a partial split at the upper front hinge. Volume II shows a small split at the upper front hinge, Volume I at the lower rear flap fold. Nonetheless, the jackets are otherwise intact. Though we are incapable of chemical analysis to definitively identify the jacket material, the timing for some variation of Cellophane fits, with widespread introduction of cellulose film to the United Kingdom in the 1930s by the British textile company Courtaulds, which was producing a viscose film named viscacelle in 1930 and by 1935 had evolved into British Cellophane. The fact that the jacket material ages very poorly combined with the commanding attractiveness of the bindings beneath would explain why we know of only two sets of such jackets to survive.
The original publisher’s shipping box is fully intact with two pasted labels. A “Home Library Book Co.” shipping label is printed to a Leeds address. A second label on the box label states “1 Set. Great War. | 4 Vols. Moroquette.” The latter adjective is apparently a fancier descriptive appellation even than the customary “leatherette” used to describe the bindings. Within the box, the three original tissue sheets laid between the books also survive. The books themselves are, as would be expected, in fine condition, with exceptionally bright bindings and wonderfully crisp, bright contents. Minor spotting to the page edges – doubtless a consequence of lifetime storage in the publisher’s box – seems a trivial price to pay for their otherwise spectacular preservation.
Reference: Cohen A69.9.d, Woods/ICS A31(dc), Langworth p.118. Item #004083