Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, six-volume, jacketed set of first editions of The Second World War, Winston Churchill's history of the epic 20th Century struggle that was so indelibly stamped by his leadership.
A Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) edition was published virtually simultaneously with the U.S. first edition and is quite similar in appearance (often causing confusion for disappointed collectors who think they have first editions). This set features a curious mix of first edition, first printing points. The dust jackets are unclipped and feature the correct, first printing “$6.00” price on each upper front flap. There are no BOMC indentations on the rear covers. The foot of each title page features the date of publication and the title page verso features no indication of later printing. However, the top edges lack yellow-orange stain and the contents are bound without red and yellow head and foot bands. We have previously recorded such variations, which may well result from the fact that the publisher, Houghton Mifflin, needed so many copies that “Production was divided among four printers: the Riverside Press, the Haddon Craftsmen, the Kingsport Press and H. Wolff…” (Vol. I, A240.1(I).a, p.718)
Condition of this set is near fine in good plus or better dust jackets. The red cloth bindings are square, clean, bright, and tight with sharp corners and only trivial shelf wear to extremities. The contents are notably clean; we find no spotting and no previous ownership marks. All six dust jackets are unclipped, each retaining its first edition “$6.00” price. The jackets show various wear, chips, short closed tears, and shallow loss to the joints, flap folds, and extremities. Nonetheless, the jacket spines are conspicuously bright, retaining far better hue than normal and bright shelf presentation. Each jacket is fitted with a clear, removable, archival cover.
The U.S. first edition is not only scarcer than its British counterpart, but is also the true first edition. Churchill vexed his publishers with myriad corrections and clarifications. It is often said that the U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, ran out of patience with Churchill first. However, Churchill's Bibliographer Ronald Cohen attributes the precedence of the U.S. publication to less romantic reasons "legal and financial, and not at all editorial." Irrespective of the reason, the first U.S. volume, The Gathering Storm, was published June 1948, while the British first edition was not published until October 1948. The sixth and final U.S. volume, Triumph and Tragedy, was published during Churchill's second and final Premiership in November 1953, it’s British first edition counterpart following in April 1954.
Seldom, if ever, has history endowed a statesman with both singular ability to make history, and singular ability to write it. As with so much of what Churchill wrote, The Second World War is not "history" in the strictly academic, objectivist sense, but rather Churchill's perspective on history. In his March 1948 introduction to the first volume, Churchill himself made the disclaimer, "I do not describe it as history... it is a contribution to history..." Nonetheless the compelling fact remains, as stated by Churchill himself, "I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office... I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty's government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books." Certainly, The Second World War may be regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. Nonetheless, Churchill's work remains iconic, a vital part of the historical record.
Please anticipate that this set may require additional postage depending on destination.
Reference: Cohen A240.4(I-VI).a, Woods/ICS A123(ba), Langworth p.264. Item #005786