London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1923. First edition, mixed printings. Hardcover. This is a full British first edition, mixed printing set of Winston Churchill’s history of the First World War. Churchill played a critical, controversial, and varied role in “The war to end all wars” and his remarkable experience underpins his epic, six-volume history of the conflict, published between 1923 and 1931. With its larger volumes and shoulder notes summarizing the subject of each page, many consider the British edition aesthetically superior to the American. Unfortunately, the smooth navy cloth of the British first editions proved quite susceptible to wear, the contents prone to spotting and toning. Full, six-volume British first edition sets can be challenging to assemble. Complicating such efforts for collectors, there were only two printings of the final volume, The Eastern Front, which was produced in smaller numbers than the preceding volumes.
The six volumes of this set vary from good to very good condition, all volumes sound and complete, but showing age, wear, and endemic flaws. Four of the six volumes – 1911-1914, 1916-1918 Part I, 1916-1918 Part II, and The Aftermath – are first edition, first printing. Both the 1915 and Eastern Front volumes are first edition, second printing, issued the same month as the first printing.
All six navy cloth bindings are sound, though with varying degrees of scuffing and wear. The 1915 volume shows some blistering of the cloth lower spine and bottom edges, as well as bumped lower corners, the 1916-1918 Part I volume has a vertical spine scuff, and both 1916-1918 volumes show Boots Library sticker scars on their lower front covers. The contents of all six volumes are respectably clean, with minimal spotting. The Eastern Front retains all illustrations, diagrams, and maps, including the large folding map at p.368. Previous ownership marks include the same previous owner name inked on the 1911-1914 and 1916-1918 Part I upper front free endpaper rectos, Boots Library stickers (indicating that the books were “PURCHASED” affixed to each 1916-1918 volume rear pastedown, and a small previous owner bookplate affixed to The Aftermath front pastedown.
Churchill was in a special position to write the history of the First World War, which nearly cost him both his political and corporeal lives. First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until 1915, after the Dardanelles disaster, Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign. He spent political exile as a lieutenant colonel of a battalion in the trenches. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience nearly two decades later leading up to the Second World War. 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. The first four volumes span the war years, 1911-1918. The fifth volume deals with the postwar years 1918 to 1928. The sixth and final volume deals in greater detail with “the course of events in the Eastern theatre”.
This large, six-volume set will be shipped at cost. Reference: A69.2(I).a, A69.2(II).b, A69.2(III-1&2).a, A69.2(IV).b, A69.2(V).b; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105. Item #006087