New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1930. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the U.S. first edition, first printing of Churchill's extremely popular autobiography, covering the years from his birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. This is a very good copy in the scarce first printing dust jacket. Published in England as My Early Life, this is one of the few Churchill first editions for which the U.S. edition bears a different title than the British. Interestingly, A Roving Commission was the title proposed by Churchill himself and favored by his American publisher. One can hardly ask for more adventurous content. These were momentous and formative years for Churchill, including his time as a war correspondent and cavalry officer in theatres as varied as Cuba, northwest India, and sub-Saharan and southern Africa.
The book sold very well at the time and has seen a great many editions since, many of them collectible in their own right, but of course a premium attaches to first editions, both British and U.S. Jacketed copies of the U.S. first edition are scarce. Even decent unjacketed copies are unusual. The red-orange cloth binding proved highly susceptible to fading and soiling and the thin, fragile dust jacket proved highly vulnerable to wear and severe fading of the orange color, particularly on the jacket spine.
This copy is first printing, confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page. Befitting a jacketed copy, the vividly-hued cloth binding remains tight and clean, only very slightly dulled on the spine and with a slight forward lean. The contents are clean and free of spotting, including the untrimmed fore edges. The sole previous ownership mark is a small, white sticker affixed to the lower rear pastedown printed only with the inscrutable digits “04434”. The first printing dust jacket has a neatly price-clipped upper front flap but is otherwise substantially complete, with tiny losses confined to extremities. The jacket shows overall scuffing and soiling, a typically sunned orange spine panel, and a diagonal crease to the lower half of the front face. The jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.
The early decades of Churchill’s life recounted in A Roving Commission encapsulate a remarkably broad range of experiences. Not only was he developing as an author, publishing his first books, and making his first lecture tour of North America, but this was also the time of his capture and daring escape during the Boer War, which made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career. Churchill took his first seat in Parliament only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria's reign. A Roving Commission remains one of the most popular and widely read of all Churchill's books. And for good reason, as the work certainly ranks among the most charming and accessible of his many books. An original 1930 review likened it to a "beaker of Champagne." That effervescent charm endures; a more recent writer called it "a racy, humorous, self-deprecating classic of autobiography." To be sure, Churchill takes some liberties with facts and perhaps unduly lightens or over-simplifies certain events, but this is eminently forgivable and in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterizes the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.2.a, Woods/ICS A37(b.1), Langworth p. 134. Item #006026