London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1934. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed British first edition, first printing of the second volume of Churchill's Marlborough: His Life and Times. During the four years covered by Volume II (1702-1705), Marlborough led England as Captain-General. The volume is a substantial 651 pages with 31 illustrations, 76 maps and plans, and 3 document facsimiles. The British first trade edition is a physically impressive production. Each volume measures 9.25 x 6.25 inches (23.5 x 15.9 cm) and is roughly 2 inches thick (5 cm). Each is bound in plum cloth with beveled edges, the Marlborough coat of arms in gilt on the front cover, and a gilt top edge. Moreover, each volume is profusely illustrated. Unfortunately, the plum cloth bindings of Volumes I-III proved highly susceptible to sunning.
This copy is very good minus in a good dust jacket which is the correct - and increasingly elusive - first printing, confirmed by an unclipped front flap that retains the original price with no mention of "2nd Impression". The jacket has a triangular loss at the base of the spine to a maximum depth of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), with lesser, shallow loss at the spine head and corners, mild overall soiling and toning, and faint color transfer from the binding to the rear face. The jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover. The volume beneath is square and tight with sharp corners and only light shelf wear to extremities. The spine and an adjacent portion of the rear cover show mild sunning, slightly more pronounced corresponding to the jacket loss at the lower spine. Nonetheless, the spine retains respectable color for the edition. The contents are bright with a crisp feel and no previous ownership marks. Modest spotting appears confined to the fore edges and the bottom edge shows some shelf soiling.
Winston Churchill's monumental biography of his great ancestor, John Churchill, the first Duke of 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 A97.2(II).a, Woods/ICS A40(aa), Langworth p.166. Item #005970