London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1923. First edition, fourth printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed British first edition, fourth printing of the first volume of the Churchill's monumental history of the First World War, in which he played such a critical, controversial, and varied role. This volume covers the first four years Churchill spent as First Lord of the Admiralty, as well as the beginning of the war. This fourth printing was issued in the same year (seven months later) as the first printing and is nearly identical. The binding is distinguished only by the presence of a gilt star on the spine denoting the volume number. The only substantial difference in content is title page verso notation notation of preceding printings. The dust jacket is printed on identical paper with identical spine, front face, and front flap print, differing only in rear face and rear flap print.
Condition is excellent, near fine in a dust jacket that approaches near fine. The navy binding is simply magnificent – square, tight, and improbably bright and clean with sharp corners, vivid spine gilt, and no appreciable wear or scuffing. The contents remain bright and crisp; the book feels unread. Only spotting prevents our grading this copy as “fine”, relatively heavy to the page edges, but within substantially confined to the first and final few leaves with only occasional small intrusions into blank inner margins. A single previous owner name is written in pencil on the front free endpaper recto. The endpapers show differential toning corresponding to the dust jacket flaps, confirming that this copy has spent life jacketed. The dust jacket is strikingly well-preserved, complete with no loss. We note only minor wear and a few minimal closed tears to extremities. The faces and flaps are remarkably bright, retaining the original distinctively greenish hue. The impressive shelf presentation of the jacket spine is not significantly affected by mild, uniform toning. Some light staining is confined to the rear face. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
This fourth printing is erroneously designated the “third edition” on the title page verso. Churchill’s bibliographer Ronald I. Cohen [A69.2(1).f] correctly designates this as first edition, fourth printing, following the second and third printings and without sufficient changes in content or appearance to constitute a new edition.
Published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, The World Crisis spans the 1911-1918 war years, with two supplemental volumes covering the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front). Of The World Crisis, Frederick Woods wrote: "The volumes contain some of Churchill's finest writing, weaving the many threads together with majestic ease…" Churchill was in a special position to write this history, having served both in the Cabinet and on the Front. Churchill served as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until 1915, but after the failure in the Dardanelles, he was scapegoated and forced to resign. He spent his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches.
Before the war's end, Churchill was exonerated and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience nearly two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles would linger. Churchill may have meant for his history of the First World War to clear his name, but his six volume masterwork far exceeds this purpose. Many consider the British edition aesthetically superior to the U.S., with its larger volumes and shoulder notes summarizing the subject of each page. Unfortunately, the smooth navy cloth of the British first editions proved quite susceptible to wear, the contents prone to spotting and toning. This copy is an exception.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).f, Woods/ICS A31(ab), Langworth p.105. Item #004886