London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the fourth volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War, elusive thus in a damaged but nonetheless substantially complete original dust jacket. A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, Winston Churchill played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”. Then, being Churchill, he wrote about it. The World Crisis was originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, with the first four volumes spanning the war years 1911-1918 and the final two volumes covering the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front).
Though the U.S. first edition of The World Crisis preceded the British, many consider the British edition aesthetically superior, 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, and the contents prone to spotting and toning. The third and fourth volumes, covering the years 1916-1918, were issued as “Part I” and “Part II” respectively. The events of the 1916-1918 volumes, of which this is the second, include Churchill's time at the Front, his return to the Cabinet, and Armistice Day, marking the formal end of hostilities.
Jacketed copies of any World Crisis first editions are elusive. The 1916-1918 volumes present a special problem, as the paper used for the jackets proved particularly brittle, leading the surviving jackets to commonly split and fragment. This copy is no exception, the original jacket split at both flap folds as well as the front hinge, with modest losses to the edges of both faces, the spine heel, and a small hole near the spine center. Despite these deficiencies, shelf presentation is acceptable, the jacket carefully preserved beneath a removable, clear, archival cover. The book beneath has clearly spent life jacketed, as testified by differential toning of the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps. The binding is notably square, tight, and clean and we’d grade the book as near fine if not for a little mottling discoloration along the fore edge of the front cover. The contents are clean, a little age-toned but pleasingly crisp with no previous ownership marks and modest spotting primarily confined to the page edges.
In October 1911, aged 36, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915. Years later, Churchill’s wife, Clementine, recalled to Churchill’s official biographer “I thought he would never get over the Dardanelles; I thought he would die of grief.” (Gilbert, Vol. III, p.473) By November, Churchill resigned even his nominal Cabinet posts to spend the rest of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches at the Front. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated by the Dardanelles Commission and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience two decades later leading up to the Second World War. And, of course, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
References: Cohen A69.2(III-2).a, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #005871