New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the U.S. first edition, first printing of Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This is a very good plus copy in an unusually bright and clean example of the scarce first printing dust jacket. Published in England as My Early Life, this is one of the few Churchill first editions for which the U.S. edition bears a different title than the British. Interestingly, A Roving Commission was the title proposed by Churchill himself and favored by his American publisher.
One can hardly ask for more adventurous content. These were momentous and formative years for Churchill, including his time as a war correspondent and cavalry officer in theatres as varied as Cuba, northwest India, and sub-Saharan and southern Africa. This time contained a wide range of experiences in Churchill’s life. Not only was he developing as an author, publishing his first books, and making his first lecture tour of North America, but this was also the time of his capture and daring escape during the Boer War, which made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career. Churchill would take his seat in Parliament only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria's reign.
A Roving Commission remains one of the most popular and widely read of all Churchill's books. And for good reason, as the work certainly ranks among the most charming and accessible of his many books. An original 1930 review likened it to a "beaker of Champagne." That effervescent charm endures; a more recent writer called it "a racy, humorous, self-deprecating classic of autobiography." To be sure, Churchill takes some liberties with facts and perhaps unduly lightens or over-simplifies certain events, but this is eminently forgivable and in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterizes the book. The book sold very well at the time and has seen a great many editions since, many of them collectible in their own right, but of course a premium attaches to first editions, both British and U.S.
Jacketed copies of the U.S. first edition are scarce. Even decent unjacketed copies are unusual. The red-orange cloth binding proved highly susceptible to fading and soiling and the thin, fragile dust jacket proved highly vulnerable to wear and severe fading of the orange color, particularly on the jacket spine. This first printing copy (confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page) features a square and tight binding with bright gilt, only a trivial hint of wear to extremities and, most notably, a bright, unfaded spine. The contents are clean and bright with no spotting. Even the page edges are notably clean and bright. We would grade this book as at least near fine if not for previous ownership marks. There is a lengthy inked gift inscription dated “August 4, 1997” on the front free endpaper as well as a circular embossed previous owner device on the lower title page. The first printing dust jacket has a neatly price-clipped front flap, fractional chipping to the spine ends, minor wear to extremities, and mild scuffing and soiling. Nonetheless, this jacket is a remarkable survivor, uncommonly bright. Shelf presentation is particularly striking for the edition, with the orange spine panel only slightly scuffed and lightly sunned, retaining distinct orange color. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, archival quality clear cover.
Reference: Cohen A91.2.a, Woods/ICS A37(b.1), Langworth p. 134. Item #004974