London: George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1938. First and only Canadian issue. Hardcover. This is the elusive Canadian issue of the fourth and final volume of Churchill's Marlborough. This final volume covers the years 1708 to 1722, chronicling the decline of Marlborough and the apparent frustration of his work. It is a substantial 671 pages with 24 illustrations, 39 maps and plans, and 1 document facsimile. The elusive Canadian editions of the first three volumes were published by Ryerson Press, so noted on the title pages and the spines of both the bindings and dust jackets. Not so the fourth volume, which is unique and little known even to collectors. By 1938, arrangements between the British publisher Harrap and Ryerson had ended. So Harrap issued the fourth volume as British edition sheets in a British edition dust jacket, but bound to match the previous Ryerson volumes in a distinctly different dark purple smooth cloth without the beveled edges of the British edition. These Canadian Volume IV editions are scarce. Moreover, the British dust jacket and the fact that Harrap's name appears on the binding makes these Volume IV Canadian editions very hard to identify, as they are often understandably mistaken for British editions.
Here is a very good copy in a very good dust jacket. The dark purple cloth binding is square, clean, bright, and tight. We note only a hint of sunning at the extreme spine ends. The contents are crisp and clean with no spotting and the book feels unread. We note modest age toning and an armorial bookplate affixed to the front pastedown. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original lower front flap price, and substantially complete, with bright faces and a toned spine that shows trivial loss and short closed tears to the spine ends. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.
Marlborough was initially conceived a full 40 years before publication of the final volume. Churchill originally considered the idea of the biography in 1898, returning to it in earnest in 1928. Marlborough ultimately took 10 years of research and writing and is the most substantial published work of Churchill's "wilderness years" in the 1930s, which he spent politically isolated, often at odds with both his own party and prevailing public sentiment. This decade saw Churchill pass into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. It is perhaps not incidental that Churchill’s great work of the 1930s was about a great ancestor. Churchill may have wondered more than once if the life history he was writing might ultimately eclipse his own. Richard Langworth says "To understand the Churchill of the Second World War, the majestic blending of his commanding English with historical precedent, one has to read Marlborough."
The work was well received. Two months after Volume I was published, on 12 December 1933, T.E. Lawrence wrote to Churchill: “I finished it only yesterday. I wish I had not… The skeleton of the book is so good. Its parts balance and the main stream flows… Marlborough has the big scene-painting, the informed pictures of men, the sober comment on political method, the humour, irony and understanding of your normal writing: but beyond that it shows more discipline and strength: and great dignity. It is history, solemn and decorative." The fourth and final volume was published almost exactly one year before the outbreak of the Second World War and Churchill’s return to the Cabinet to reprise his First World War role as First Lord of the Admiralty. Twenty months after the final volume was published Churchill became wartime prime minister.
Reference: Cohen A97.3, Woods/ICS A40(ac). Langworth p.169. Item #005505