London: Thornton Butterworth Limited and Odhams Press Limited, Ernest Benn Limited, 1932. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This volume combines first editions of two of Churchill’s most popular and engaging works – Thoughts and Adventures and Painting as a Pastime – in a single, exceptional fine binding. A collection of 23 essays, Thoughts and Adventures has been called "The broadest range of Churchill's thought between two hard covers". Painting as a Pastime is Churchill's famous essay on his famous hobby. Together thus, both books reflect the two qualities that so characterize Churchill's life - a remarkable breadth of both mind and life experience.
The elegant, orange-brown, beautifully grained, full Niger Morocco goatskin binding features hubbed spines with blind-rule framed bands, gilt rules at the spine head and tail, subtly radiused corners, and Churchill’s ancestral Marlborough arms in gilt on the front cover. The contents are bound with gilt top edges and double gilt-ruled turn-ins framing striking marbled endpapers. Even the gold and red silk head and foot bands are executed with manifest skill. This compellingly handsome example of the fine binder’s craft is a reminder to collectors that not all fine bindings are created equal.
Gilt print on the lower front pastedown turn-in attributes this binding to “HENRY SOTHERAN, LTD.” Founded in York in 1761 and established in London in 1815, Sotheran’s is one of the world’s oldest bookshops. This fine binding commissioned by Sotheran’s deliberately and closely emulated the fine bindings of the signed and limited first edition of Marlborough: His Life and Times (Churchill, 1933-1938, bound by Leighton-Straker). The binding of this volume and the publisher’s original Marlborough fine bindings look closely akin when shelved together.
This book comes from the collection of British army veteran and noted Churchillian Major Alan Taylor-Smith (1928-2019) of Westerham, Kent, proximate to Churchill’s beloved country home, Chartwell.
Condition is better than near fine. The exceptional binding shows only the slightest wear, confined to the front hinge. Any minor blemishes appear inherent to the skin and mild toning of the leather lends aesthetic character to both shelf presentation and the binding overall. The first edition contents are well suited to the binding. Thoughts and Adventures shows only trivial instances of spotting, mostly confined to the mildly age-toned fore and bottom edges, the only exception being more noticeable spotting to the lower half of the final page of text. Painting as a Pastime is bright and clean. The gilt top edge remains bright.
An original blurb for Thoughts and Adventures encapsulates – as far as is possible – the wide range of the chapters within: “These true stories concern such things as the tides that make a politician change his mind; the domination of chance in human lives; the cartoonists who mocked Churchill; the chances and events that occurred while he was in the trenches; phases of the war seen from intimate participation with the high commands; flying experiences in 1912; the Irish; the future; and contemporary change." In a 31 May 1932 letter to his publisher, Churchill characterized the book thus: "...although there is no one single theme, it has some of the best things in it I have ever written."
Painting as a Pastime had been printed in The Strand Magazine as early as 1921, but it was not until 1948 - nearly three decades after his first published words on the subject - that Churchill consented to a book about his hobby and passion. He wrote, "Painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of Time or the surly advance of Decrepitude" (Painting as a Pastime, p. 13). Complete with images of his paintings, Painting as a Pastime offers something truly personal and different to the great body of Churchill’s writing.
References: Cohen A95.1.a and A242.1.a, Woods/ICS A39(aa.1) and A125(a), Langworth p.156 and p.288. Item #006367