London: Macmillan and Company Limited, 1907. First one-volume edition. Hardcover. This is a remarkably well-preserved copy of the 1907 first one-volume unabridged edition of Winston Churchill’s biography of his father in an exceptional example of the rare dust jacket. The British first edition was published in two volumes in 1906. In 1907, the publisher issued this one-volume edition, containing the full text of the two-volume work as origially published in 1906, but printed on thinner paper. The binding and dust jacket both closely resemble the first edition of just a year earlier.
This copy is superb, near fine plus in a dust jacket that approaches near fine. The binding is strikingly bright and clean, square and tight, with sharp corners, and vivid spine gilt. We note only a touch of wrinkling to the spine ends and a few small spine dimples. The contents remain crisp and clean with no spotting or previous ownership marks and bright top edge gilt that is only a little scuffed. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponds to the dust jacket flaps and some typical transfer browning of the pastedowns and facing front free endpaper rectos. Even the fore and bottom edges are surprisingly clean. “Near fine plus” is a conservative grade for this beautifully bright volume.
Sheets from the first and only printing of this 1907 one-volume edition continued to be bound and sold by the publisher into the 1920s. There was presumably a first issue jacket, but this appears lost to history, unknown to us and to Churchill’s bibliographers. Churchill’s foremost bibliographer, Ronald Cohen, speculatively dates this jacket to early 1925, based on the list of other titles printed on the rear face of the jacket (see Cohen, Vol. I, A17.4, p.141). The dust jacket is a rare prize even significantly worn, but doubly so thus, almost entirely complete and quite clean. We note only a tiny chip loss at the upper hinge, a faint, .75 inch (1.9 cm) diameter circular incidence of darkening at the upper left front face, ostensibly the residue of an old sticker, and slight, uniform toning to the spine. The dust jacket is protected with a removable, clear, archival cover.
Winston Churchill’s biography of his father focuses on Lord Randolph's career in Parliament after 1880. Winston Churchill's father, Lord Randolph, died in January 1895 at age 45 following the spectacular collapse of both his health and political career. His son Winston was 20 years old. When he first contemplated writing his father's biography Winston Churchill was an itinerant soldier and war correspondent who had yet to write his first book. The son still dwelt very much in his father's shadow, both emotionally and in terms of the political career to which he already aspired. By the time the work was published in 1906, the young Winston Churchill already had half a dozen books to his credit and half a decade in Parliament. By 1906 Churchill had already left his father's political party, prevailed in the same political battle that had terminated his father's career, and was just two years from his first Cabinet post.
That Churchill would be selected as biographer by Lord Randolph's executors was not a foregone conclusion. Churchill first entertained the idea soon after his father's death, but it was not until late in 1902 that he was appointed. Churchill then spent two and a half years researching and writing. We can assume that it was not only a major literary effort, but an emotional one as well. Of the work, Churchill wrote to Lord Rosebery on 11 September 1902 "It is all most interesting to me - and melancholy too" (R. Churchill, Companion Volume II, Part 1, p.438). Churchill was criticized by some reviewers for overplaying his father's accomplishments while mitigating his deficiencies of character and decision. Nonetheless, the work was well received both as a portrayal of its subject and as a showcase for the son's literary talent.
Reference: Cohen A17.4, Woods/ICS A8(b), Langworth p.74. Item #006015