London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1930. First edition, third printing. Hardcover. This homely copy is rendered exceptional by the extravagantly rare dust jacket. This is the first edition, third printing of Churchill’s only and extremely popular autobiography, published in November 1930, swiftly following the first and second printings of October. The third printing dust jacket is identical in every respect to that of the first printing. The volume is nearly identical to the first printing, excepting only the printing history on the copyright page.
My Early Life has seen a great many editions, many of them collectible, but of course a premium attaches to first editions, with jacketed examples being among the most sought and elusive prizes in the Churchill canon. The vivid plum color of both the binding and dust jacket proved incredibly vulnerable to sunning. Whether because of sunning, the fact that this popular book appears to have been widely read, or both, very few first edition dust jackets survive. Neither we nor Churchill’s bibliographer have ever recorded a jacketed third printing, likely owing to the great temptation to transfer any third printing dust jacket to a first printing book; any respectable jacketed first printing now commands a five-figure sum.
This copy is in good plus condition, its accompanying jacket poor, noteworthy for its mere presence rather than condition. The volume’s plum cloth binding is square, tight, and mostly bright. The spine is appreciably sunned only at the upper left, lower right, and at a few tiny points adjacent to the author’s name, all corresponding exactly to dust jacket losses. This affirms that the book and jacket have spent life together. The contents retain a crisp feel as if possibly unread. The sole evidence of previous ownership is laid in – the printed card of “Mrs. Elizabeth Walker” of “3, Bolton Gardens, London, S.W.” upon which is written (presumably in Walker’s hand) “1930 – To dear Ms. Lydelson with Christmas Greetings.” The contents show only moderate spotting, primarily confined to the endpapers, prelims, and page edges, heaviest on the title page. The chief detraction is unattractive staining to the top edges from some moisture staining. Fortunately, the moisture staining only lightly penetrated the book, affecting only the blank upper margin within between pages 365 and 391 and causing some color transfer from the cloth to the upper edges of the rear pastedown.
The dust jacket has fared worse than the book it has long protected. The spine is toned, stained with irregular loss extending up as far as 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) into the lower right spine and as far as one inch (2.5 cm) at the upper left, with two tiny holes proximate to the author’s name and chip losses along the rear hinge. The front face is differentially toned as if another book long lay upon it, only a large, angled rectangle retaining original color. The left and upper margins of the front face are toned, there is significant staining, and there are losses to the upper edge, flap fold, and lower right. The rear face retains excellent color on all but a strip of the upper edge and shows chip losses to the edges and flap folds. The flap folds each show a strip of sunning at the fore edges but only trivial chipping to the upper edges. The hard-worn but nonetheless precious jacket is now protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
My Early Life spans Churchill’s birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament, including his time as a war correspondent and cavalry officer in theatres as varied as Cuba, northwest India, and sub-Saharan and southern Africa. 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 seat in Parliament only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria's reign. Reference: Cohen A91.1.e, Woods/ICS A37(ab.3), Langworth p.131. Item #006153