London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd., 1909. First edition, only printing, hardcover issue. Hardcover. This is among the rarest Churchill first editions – the first edition, only printing of The People’s Rights in the hardcover binding – one of only 100 bound thus. This copy is also bibliographically significant, resolving whether the hardcover issue of The People's Rights was published in 1909 or 1910. In 1904, Churchill quit the Conservative Party and joined the Liberals, beginning a dynamic chapter in his political career that saw him champion progressive causes and be branded a traitor to his class.
In late 1909-early 1910, when The People's Rights was published, Winston Churchill was a powerful political force and a member of the Cabinet. From December 3-11, 1909 Churchill was on the campaign trail for the Liberals. The People's Rights is a distillation of these nine days of speeches, criticizing the House of Lords (which had rejected the Liberal Government's budget, thus precipitating the campaign) and championing Free Trade, a graduated income tax, luxury tax, and surtaxes on unearned income. Churchill's efforts were not wasted; the election gave the Liberals a slim majority and passage of their budget.
The first edition is not only an important work, but also the only edition published in Churchill's lifetime. Nearly all first edition copies were bound in bright yellow-orange paper wraps (with a halftone photo of Churchill on the cover) and printed on cheap, pulp paper. For obvious reasons, they proved perishable; surviving copies are scarce and desirable, even in halfway decent condition. However, considerably scarcer is this publisher's original hardcover binding.
As documented in Ronald Cohen's excellent Bibliography, "100 sets of sheets were bound on 20 December 1909". The hardcover issue is not only quite scarce, but was also bound "two weeks before the publication of the paper wrappers issue.” Cohen wrote that “The cloth copies may have been available in the last few days of 1909.” (Cohen, Volume I, page 177) But, lacking evidence, Cohen left the official publication date as 1910. This copy settles the question; on the front free endpaper page recto the first owner inked both his name and the date - “Dec 1909”. We have noted two slightly different cloth variants among the 100 hardcover copies - a cherry red cloth as well as a deeper, burgundy-red. This copy is the cherry red cloth variant.
Condition is good plus overall, unlovely but nonetheless a sound, unrestored, and complete copy of a particularly scarce first edition, the flaws attributable to the age and inherent fragility. The binding is notably square and tight with no warp and no lean. The covers remain respectably bright with light scuffing to the rear cover and moderate wear to extremities. The spine is toned and a little mottled with fraying to the spine ends. The spine gilt is dulled but still clearly legible. The contents were printed on cheap pulp paper which always browns and becomes brittle. These contents are no exception, with the typical age-toning, more pronounced at the page edges. Nonetheless, being protected by the hardcover binding, the contents are better than those of most wraps-bound copies we see, which often suffer significant edge chipping in addition to age-toning. This copy does not have the p.71 mispagination affiliated with the first state, but does have a single Appendix and Index affiliated with first state wraps-bound copies, rather than the later state second Appendix replacing the Index. Spotting appears confined to the pastedowns. The only previous ownership mark other than the name and significant “Dec 1909” date is an upside-down, ink-stamped “10 JUN 1966” also on the front free endpaper. The contents remain firmly attached to the text block with the exception of the blank final free endpaper following the Index. This blank final free endpaper is both loose and chipped at the edges.
Reference: Cohen A31.1.b, Woods/ICS A16(a), Langworth p.97. Item #005174