London: Cassell and Company Ltd., 1941. First edition, first printing, first state. Hardcover. This is a finely bound British first edition, first printing of the first volume of Churchill's famous war speeches, containing speeches spanning May 1938 to November 1940, from the height of appeasement and Churchill’s political isolation, through the first six months of his wartime premiership.
The magnificent fine binding in full navy calf is the work of the renowned Bayntun-Riviere bindery of Bath, England. The binding features a hubbed spine with gilt-decorated spine bands, double gilt-ruled compartments, and red title and author panels. The covers feature double blind gilt rule borders, the edges feature elaborate gilt decoration, and the spine ends feature gilt hatching. The contents are bound with all edges gilt, blue and white silk head and tail bands, and striking marbled endpapers framed by elaborate dentelle turn-ins. “BOUND BY BAYNTUN (RIVIERE), BATH, ENGLAND” is stamped on the upper front free endpaper verso. In 1939, the year the Second World War began, the firm of George Bayntun acquired the Rivière Bindery. The Bayntun-Rivière Bindery has been in residence on Manvers Street in Bath ever since. This compellingly handsome example of the fine binder’s craft is a reminder to collectors that not all fine bindings are created equal.
Of note, even though this is the British first edition, the navy-blue calf and red spine panels are evocative of the U.S. first edition binding, which was both more striking and more aesthetically pleasing than its British counterpart. One could argue that this is the best of all worlds – British first edition contents, the exterior taking style cues from the American first edition, but executed as an exceptional fine binding rather than just publisher’s cloth.
Condition is truly fine. Calf makes a lovely binding, but one quite prone to wear. This binding shows no appreciable wear or flaws. The first printing contents are well suited to the binding – uncommonly crisp, bright, and clean, particularly given the cheap wartime paper upon which the first editions were printed. We find no spotting, no appreciable toning, and no previous ownership marks.
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, Nobel Prize winner, 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. When Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it was partly “…for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” Of Churchill’s war speeches, Edward R. Murrow said: "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." In this first volume, the great battle of the twentieth century and of Churchill's life begins.
Reference: Cohen A142.1.b, Woods/ICS A66(a.1), Langworth p.204. Item #006660