London: Macmillan and Company, 1906. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a first edition set of Winston Churchill's biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill. The first edition, only printing, is aesthetically pleasing, featuring deep red cloth, untrimmed page edges, gilt stamping, and the family coat of arms on the front covers. However, the red cloth binding of this edition proved quite susceptible to fading and wear and the contents to heavy spotting. First edition sets are not especially uncommon, but collector worthy sets are scarce. Here is a very good set, not fine but nonetheless less affected by the usual flaws than most sets we encounter.
The red cloth bindings remain respectably tight and clean. Wear and scuffing are modest and the spines show only light, uniform toning. Hence shelf presentation is quite good for the edition. The contents of both volumes are bright. Each front pastedown bears the same decorative bookplate, corroborating that this is a lifelong mated pair. The only other ownership mark is a tiny bookshop sticker affixed to the lower right Vol. I front pastedown, reading “GEORGE’S” of “Park Street. Bristol”. The endpapers are browned. Spotting is light for the edition, intermittent within Vol. I, substantially confined to only the untrimmed for edges of Vol. II.
Winston Churchill’s biography of his father focuses on Lord Randolph's career in Parliament after 1880. Lord Randolph died in January 1895 at age 45 following the spectacular collapse of both his health and political career. 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 Lord Randolph Churchill 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. Nonetheless, 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. Nonetheless, the work was well received both as a frank portrayal of Randolph's extremes and as a showcase for the son's literary talent.
Reference: Cohen A17.1, Woods A8(a), Langworth p.69. Item #006047