London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1930. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is an unread first edition, first printing of Churchill s autobiography. My Early Life sold very well at the time and has seen a great many editions since, many of them collectible in their own right, but of course a premium attaches to first editions. The challenge for collectors is that the plum colored binding of this edition proved especially vulnerable to fading, soiling, and wear; nearly all copies are considerably spine faded. Moreover, the contents proved quite susceptible to spotting.
Two states of the first edition, first printing are identified, with a list of either 11 or 12 Churchill titles in the boxed list of "Works by the same Author" on the half-title verso. With 12 titles on the half title verso, this copy is second state. There were also a number of first edition binding states, bound in either a coarse or a smooth plum colored cloth, with the title stamped on the front cover in either three or five lines. This first edition, first printing, is the second binding state, denoted by five lines on the front cover, and is bound in smooth rather than coarse cloth.
This copy approaches very good overall condition, with flaws endemic to the edition, but nonetheless sound, complete, and unrestored and with no appreciable wear or soiling. Moreover, this copy is clearly unread, with uncut signatures beginning at p.37. The chief detractions of this copy are sunning of the binding and spotting of the contents. The binding shows significant, uniform toning of the spine and lesser toning to a 1.25 inch strip along the upper front and rear covers. Apart from the aesthetic blemish of the toning, the binding is atypically square, clean, tight, and free of soiling with sharp corners and only the most trivial shelf wear to extremities. The contents are clean with no previous ownership marks. Spotting is the only flaw to the unread contents, mostly confined to the prelims and the otherwise clean page edges.
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 characterizes the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.1.c, Woods/ICS A37(aa), Langworth p.131. Item #006578