London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1946. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed copy of the British first edition, only printing, of the seventh and final volume of Churchill's war speeches. As the title implies, this slim volume contains five speeches Churchill made to the House of Commons sitting in Secret Session - those of 20 June and 17 September 1940, 25 June 1941, and 23 April and 10 December 1942.
Increasingly scarce thus, this copy is near fine in a very good dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is beautifully clean, tight, and square with sharp corners, bright gilt, and only the most trivial hints of shelf wear. The contents are crisp and bright. A barely discernible hint of spotting is confined to the otherwise clean and bright page edges. There are no previous ownership marks, but laid in we found a printed compliments slip of “Chas J. Sawyer” of “No. 1 Grafton Street, New Bond Street, London”. Charles J. Sawyer Ltd. was a London-based bookselling firm active in the twentieth century founded by the firm’s namesake and later run by his children and grandson. The shop premises on Grafton Street – the address on this compliments slip – were sold in 1986. The distinctive white dust jacket proved highly susceptible to toning and soiling. This jacket is far better than most we encounter, with only light spotting and soiling. The jacket is substantially complete, with only fractional loss to the spine ends and corners and a short closed tear at the upper front hinge. The spine is modestly but uniformly toned. The jacket is protected within a clear, removable, archival cover.
Publication of Churchill’s Secret Session Speeches was made possible when the ban on revealing what had taken place during the wartime Secret Sessions was lifted in December 1945. Secret Session Speeches is anomalous among Churchill's other war speeches volumes in many respects. Unlike the contents of the other war speeches volumes, the words within this volume were not made or meant for public consumption. In fact, there was no public record of the speeches at all. As explained by the volume's compiler, Charles Eade, in his Introduction, "In accordance with Parliamentary custom, these speeches were not recorded even for official and historical purposes. Fortunately, the speeches were of such character that Mr. Churchill before delivering four of them prepared full texts of what he proposed to say." Only the first speech, that of 20 June 1940 after the fall of France, lacked a full text dictated by Churchill. For this first of Churchill's Secret Session speeches, the volume reproduces a copy of his original notes and emendations. In addition to Eade's Introduction, the book adds explanatory and context-setting comment preceding each speech, and this British edition adds eight leaves of plates at page 48 featuring sixteen full page wartime photographs and captions.
Few books are as emblematic of Churchill’s literary and leadership gifts as his war speeches volumes. During his long public life, Winston Churchill played many roles worthy of note - Member of Parliament for more than half a century, soldier and war correspondent, author of scores of books, ardent social reformer, combative cold warrior, painter. But Churchill's preeminence as a historical figure owes most to his indispensable leadership during the Second World War, when his soaring and defiant oratory sustained his countrymen and inspired the free world. Of Churchill, Edward R. Murrow said: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." When Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it was partly “…for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” Between 1941 and 1946, Churchill's war speeches were published in seven individual volumes. The British first editions are visually striking, but were printed on cheap “War Economy Standard” paper, bound in coarse cloth, and wrapped in fragile dust jackets. Hence the passage of time has been hard on most surviving first editions.
Reference: Cohen A227.2.a, Woods/ICS A114(b), Langworth p.250. Item #006544