London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition. Hardcover. This is a jacketed British first edition, first printing set of the third and fourth volumes of Churchill's monumental history of the First World War. A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, Winston Churchill played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”. Then, being Churchill, he wrote about it. His six-volume history was published between 1923 and 1931. The events of these 1916-1918 volumes include Churchill's time at the Front following his political exile and his subsequent return to the Cabinet.
The British first edition is handsome, but the smooth navy cloth proved quite susceptible to wear and dulling, the contents prone to spotting and toning. The original dust jackets are quite scarce. Particularly scarce in one piece are these 1916-1918 first printing dust jackets, which were printed on highly acidic paper highly prone to loss, toning, and almost inevitable splitting at hinges and flap folds.
Condition of this set is near fine in the dust jackets. The blue cloth bindings are superb - square, immaculately clean, and beautifully bright with vivid spine gilt and sharp corners. We note only some wrinkling to the spine ends and a few spots of minor color variation on the Part I lower spine. The contents are crisp and bright – almost certainly unread. We find no previous ownership marks. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms that this set has spent life jacketed. The most trivial instance of spotting appears confined to the page edges, which also show light soiling.
The exceptionally fragile dust jackets show loss to the spine ends and flap fold corners, as well as the almost inevitable hinge and flap fold splits with fractional attendant chip losses. Hence we must grade their condition as poor. Nonetheless, both jackets are more complete than most examples that survive. Part I shows some fracturing and a tiny hole at the upper spine, above the author’s name. Part II shows a small hole at the lower spine, just above the price and consuming the “lume” in “Volumes”, as well as some spotting to the front face and a faint moisture stain at the upper left of same (the binding beneath unaffected). The dust jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers.
In October 1911, aged 36, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915.
By November, Churchill resigned even his nominal Cabinet posts to spend the rest of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches at the Front. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated by the Dardanelles Commission and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(III-1&2).a, Woods/ICS A31(ab), Langworth p.105. Item #004666