London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1942. Hardcover. This is a Second World War reprint of then-Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill’s extremely popular autobiography, this copy notable for interesting wartime provenance. First published in 1930, this is a 1942 Second World War reprint (from first edition plates) by Macmillan, London. This particular copy is made more compelling by interesting wartime provenance. Per an elaborate printed grey plate affixed to the front pastedown, it was a gift from British industrialist Alexander Duckham in 1943. The presentation plate reads: “Written when he certainly had no conception of becoming 'Pater Patrice' I feel that Mr. Churchill’s autobiography up to 1901 will be an appropriate and acceptable token of goodwill to our customers on our 44th birthday anniversary, November 1943.” The plate is facsimile signed "Alexander Duckham".
Alexander Duckham (1877-1945) was an English chemist, businessman, and early aviation pioneer who in 1899 founded Alexander Duckham & Co. A blender of oils, Duckhams was the second largest of the independent UK blenders after Castrol. By the mid-1930s it was sold in over thirty countries, mainly in Europe and British overseas territories. After the Second World War and Duckham’s death, motoring for the masses became a reality and Duckham's became a household name for engine oil. (Wagner, The Duckham's Story: A Century of Fighting Friction)
Condition of this copy is good, sound, clean, and complete, though wearing signs of age and wear befitting an extremely popular and widely read book. The original blue cloth binding is clean, with only light wear to extremities, but with mild spine toning, a distinct forward lean, and a few faint moisture stains to the front cover. The contents remain respectably bright, with light spotting confined to the endpapers and otherwise clean page edges. We find no previous ownership marks other than the presentation plate.
Regarding this particular wartime edition of Churchill’s autobiography, Macmillan acquired the rights to several Churchill books after the original publisher, Thornton Butterworth, went under in 1940. During the war years, these desirable reprints were published by Macmillan. Hence this edition, reprinted from the first edition Thornton Butterworth plates.
My Early Life covers the years from Churchill's birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. 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. This time contained a wide range of experiences in Churchill's life. 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 would take his seat in Parliament only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria's reign.
My Early Life 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." 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 characterize the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.6.b, Woods/ICS A37(d.2), Langworth p.139. Item #006215