London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1956. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This is a magnificently bound full, four-volume British first edition, first printing set of Churchill’s sweeping history and last great work. The elegant, orange-brown, full Niger Morocco goatskin bindings feature hubbed spines with blind-rule framed bands, subtly radiused corners, and gilt rules on all of the binding edges. Three gilt-printed spine compartments respectively feature the title, volume number and subtitle, and author. The contents are bound with all edges gilt, and double gilt-ruled turn-ins framing striking marbled endpapers. Even the gold and red head and foot bands are executed with manifest skill. This deftly understated yet compellingly lovely 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 turn-in of each front pastedown attributes these bindings to “HATCHARDS LTD, 187 PICCADILLY”. Hatchards is reputedly London’s oldest bookshop, established in 1797, a mainstay of Piccadilly for more than two centuries, counting among its customers the royal households of Britain and Europe. These fine bindings commissioned by Hatchards evoke the orange-brown Niger Morocco goatskin bindings executed for the signed, limited issue first edition bindings of The New Examen (Paget, introduction by Churchill, 1934, bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe) and Marlborough: His Life and Times (Churchill, 1933-1938, bound by Leighton-Straker).
Condition is near fine overall. The bindings appear vintage, plausibly contemporary to publication, but are in exceptional condition, with no reportable wear. The bindings wear some minor handling and natural toning of the leather, but with aesthetically appealing grace. The first edition, first printing contents reveal no previous ownership marks. Spotting is modest for the edition - light, intermittent, and appreciably manifest only in the prelims.
Churchill's four volume epic, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, was published between 1956 and 1958. The work traces a great historical arc from Roman Britain through the end of the Nineteenth Century, ending with the death of Queen Victoria. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is the very year that saw Churchill conclude his first North American lecture tour, take his first seat in Parliament, and begin to make history himself. The work itself was two decades in the making. The Churchillian conceptions that underpinned it were lifelong. The cultural commonality and vitality of English-speaking peoples animated Churchill throughout his life, from his Victorian youth in an ascendant British Empire to his twilight in the midst of the American century.
Churchill began A History of the English-Speaking Peoples in the 1930s, completing a draft of "about half a million words" which was set aside when Churchill returned to the Admiralty and to war in September 1939. The work was fittingly interrupted by an unprecedented alliance among the English-speaking peoples during the Second World War - an alliance Churchill personally did much to cultivate, cement, and sustain. The interruption continued as Churchill bent his literary efforts to his six-volume history, The Second World War, and then his remaining political energies to his second and final premiership from 1951-1955.
Reference: Cohen A267.1(I-IV).a, Woods/ICS A138(aa), Langworth p.315. Item #006508