London: Macmillan and Company, 1906. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This first edition set of Winston Churchill's biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, is noteworthy both for being a publisher’s presentation set and for superior condition. A small number of copies of this edition bear a one-inch circular “PRESENTATION COPY” embossment at the bottom right corner of the title page. This set is embossed thus on both title pages.
In addition to the presentation copy status, condition of this set is compelling. The first edition, only printing, is aesthetically pleasing, featuring deep red cloth, untrimmed page edges, gilt stamping, and the family coat of arms in gilt 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.
This presentation set of the first edition approaches near fine, definitively cleaner and brighter inside and out than the vast majority of sets we encounter. The red cloth bindings remain square, tight, and strikingly clean and bright. To be sure there is light shelf wear to extremities, a few superficial scuffs and blemishes, and a bump to the upper rear Volume II corner. Nonetheless, shelf presentation is impressive, with no discernible color shift between the covers and spine, bright spine gilt, and only minor wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents match the bindings – uncommonly bright and clean for the edition. Quite remarkably for the edition, we note absolutely no spotting. Even the untrimmed edges are clean and bright. The contents retain a crisp feel, plausibly unread. No age-toning is perceptible. The sole previous ownership or provenance evident is a lovely little bookseller sticker affixed to the lower Volume I pastedown. The sticker is in the shape of a book measuring 1.25 inches tall and is rendered in blue, red and gold, the “spine print” reading “Librairie des Amateurs | Geneve | A. Comtat”. We presume this was a Geneva bookseller, “A. Comtat” being the notional proprietor.
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 #006392