London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1929. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, six-volume, jacketed, British first edition, first printing set of Winston S. Churchill’s history of the first world war, anchored by a remarkable association copy. The penultimate volume, The Aftermath, is inscribed and dated to Arthur James Balfour, the man who replaced Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty when Churchill was forced to resign. Churchill’s own words testify most eloquently to his association with Balfour, which both included and exceeded that of a colleague, mentor, or rival: “…this remarkable man whom I knew, and whose friendship, across the vicissitudes of politics, I enjoyed in a ripening measure during thirty years.” (Churchill, Great Contemporaries, p.240)
Churchill inscribed the presentation copy of the first edition of The Aftermath six days prior to publication. Using their respective initials, the tone is familiar, befitting their long association, and the first and third lines have a hint of playful versification. Inked in four lines, the recto of the blank sheet preceding the half title reads: “A. J. B | from | Winston S. C. | 1 Mar 1929”. This was the last book Churchill published during the recipient’s lifetime; Balfour died a year later.
A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, Winston Churchill played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”. Then, being Churchill, he wrote about it. The World Crisis was published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931. The first four volumes span the 1911-1918 war years, with two supplemental volumes. The fifth volume, The Aftermath, covers the postwar years 1918-1928 – a decade-long span during most of which both Churchill and Balfour served in high Government office. As the title implies, the sixth and final volume, The Eastern Front, covers the eastern theatre.
The British first editions are handsome, but the smooth navy cloth bindings proved quite susceptible to wear, the contents quite prone to spotting and toning. Moreover, the cloth binding of this fifth volume (the one inscribed to Balfour) proved particularly susceptible to blistering – delamination of the binding cloth from the binding structure beneath.
Sets thus, in dust jackets, are an elusive prize. When these volumes were published, between 1923 and 1931, booksellers often discarded the dust jackets. Even those spared by booksellers often did not survive. Particularly scarce are the first printing 1911-1914 dust jacket, marginally intact 1916-1918 dust jackets (which proved especially brittle) and The Eastern Front dust jacket, which, like the 1916-1918 jackets, proved quite brittle in addition to being extravagantly scarce.
The Aftermath: Condition of this inscribed presentation copy of the first edition, first printing, first state of The Aftermath approaches very good overall in a very good plus dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is square, clean, and bright, with vivid spine gilt, sharp corners, and only trivial shelf wear confined to extremities – all consonant with a jacketed copy. Unfortunately, the otherwise well-preserved cloth suffers significant blistering, endemic to the edition. In this case the spine is most affected, but also the cover edges and the upper front cover. The contents are uncommonly clean for the edition, crisp and bright with no spotting or previous ownership marks other than the author’s inscription. First state of the first edition, first printing, is confirmed by absence of an errata at p.9. We note only minor age-toning and incidental dust to the top edge of the text block. The binding remains firmly attached, despite a cosmetic split at the final free endpaper gutter showing a narrow glimpse of the fully intact mull beneath. The dust jacket is complete apart from fractional chipping to the spine ends, and notably clean, with modest, uniform spine toning. There are short closed tears and wrinkling to the top .5 inch of the spine head. The inscribed volume is housed in a full, dark blue Morocco goatskin Solander case with raised and gilt-rule framed spine bands, tan Morocco spine labels, gilt rule-bordered covers, and marbled paper lining.
While the inscribed volume renders this set truly exceptional, the rest of the jacketed first editions in the set are noteworthy on their own merits.
1911-1914: Condition is very good plus in a very good minus dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is square, clean, bright, and tight with only light shelf wear to extremities, the worst of it a small bump to the lower corner of the rear cover. The covers show faint signs of handling, but no appreciable soiling or scuffing, and the spine gilt remains vividly bright. The contents retain a pleasingly fresh, slightly stiff feel and spotting is modest, primarily confined to prelims and page edges. A tiny “Portsmouth” bookseller sticker is affixed to the lower front pastedown. The only previous owner name is both intriguing and contemporary. Three lines inked on the front free endpaper recto read: “R. F. Knight | Agamemnon | Apr/23” The first and third lines seem self-explanatory. But what of “Agamemnon”? That was the name of the last of Britain’s pre-dreadnaught battleships, which saw service in the Dardanelles during the First World War. But, of course, the name could have a host of other meanings. Certainly, it intrigues. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponds to the dust jacket flaps, corroborating that this copy has spent life jacketed. There were eight printings (between 1923 and 1930) of the first edition of the 1911-1914 volume. This first printing dust jacket is particularly elusive, distinguished by a blank rear face and rear flap; subsequent printings advertised other volumes in the series on the rear face and "Press Notices" on the rear flap. The dust jacket is toned on the spine, perimeter, and upper rear face, soiled, and worn at the extremities, but nonetheless substantially complete, with trivial loss confined to the spine ends and flap fold corners.
1915: This first printing of the 1915 volume features a strikingly clean and bright binding, square and tight with only trivial shelf wear to extremities and tiny blemishes to the lower corners. The contents remain bright with a crisp, unread feel. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting, endemic to the edition, is substantially confined to the endpapers and page edges. The dust jacket is an excellent survivor, entirely complete with only minor wear and tiny, short, closed tears to extremities. Light overall soiling and minimal spine toning do not appreciably diminish excellent shelf presentation. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.
1916-1918: Condition of this pair is near fine in very good dust jackets. The blue cloth bindings are simply superb. Square, immaculately clean, and beautifully bright with vivid spine gilt. We note only a trivial bump to the lower front corner of Part I. The contents are crisp and bright and feel unread. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps corroborates that this set has spent life jacketed. Spotting – modest for the edition and primarily confined to the page edges – is the only thing that prevents our grading these volumes as “fine”. The sole previous ownership marking we find is the tiny sticker of the same bookseller affixed to each lower front pastedown. Both jackets suffer chipping to extremities and some closed tears, but notably are clean, with almost no appreciable spine toning, and – remarkably – in one piece, rather than split at the flap folds and hinges as is typical. Each jacket spine shows minor scarring just below the volume number, removing the original, printed publisher’s price (likely the work of the same bookseller whose sticker is affixed to each lower front pastedown).
The Eastern Front: This copy is in very good plus condition, the blue cloth binding square and tight, retaining rich navy color and bright spine gilt. Light shelf wear to extremities and a few small scuffs and blemishes to the front cover do not detract from the excellent spine appearance. The contents are bright and complete with a crisp feel and no previous ownership marks. All illustrations and maps are intact, including the color folding map at page 368. What prevents our grading this copy as near fine is spotting, mostly confined to the prelims and page edges, and some soiling to the upper front free endpaper recto and facing pastedown. Both extremely scarce and notoriously brittle, this dust jacket is noteworthy in virtually any condition. This example is both substantially complete and in one piece, spared the expected splits to the hinges and flap folds. There is an irregular, shallow strip loss at the spine head and intermittent shallow chipping along the top edge of the front face, as well as negligible chipping at the spine heel. The pale green hue of the paper is uniformly tanned on the spine, but red subtitle print remains bright and distinct.
All six dust jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers.
Arthur James Balfour, first earl of Balfour (1848-1930) was among the most significant influences and associations of the first half of Churchill’s political career. The two were already tethered by friendship and politics when Winston was born, and during Winston’s first three decades in Parliament they were almost perpetually connected by oscillations of alignment and opposition, of concurrent and opposing political ascendance.
Balfour was friends with Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, and supported Winston in his early endeavors, including publication of his first book and his first election to Parliament. It was in late May 1904, during Balfour’s 1902-1905 premiership, that young Winston dramatically left the Conservative Party and crossed the aisle to become a Liberal. In late 1911, within weeks of Churchill’s appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty, Balfour resigned as Conservative party leader, a casualty of Conservative losses to the Liberals in policy battles championed by Churchill.
Arguably, Balfour’s most important legacies and most potent time in power came in the years that followed. Moreover, the First World War and its aftermath – apropos the title of the inscribed work in question – tethered Balfour and Churchill even more than had the preceding decades. On the Dardanelles – the strategic initiative that would end Churchill’s tenure at the Admiralty, the two men were in accord. Indeed, Balfour “argued persuasively in favor” – of Churchill’s proposal to attack the Dardanelles with ships alone. (ODNB) When the Dardanelles disaster engulfed Churchill and forced his resignation, it was Balfour who succeeded Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty.
It is worth noting that Balfour anticipated the weapons that would revolutionize naval warfare in each world war – the submarine in the First and the aircraft in the Second. Later, as Foreign Secretary, Balfour did much to “smooth the way for American co-operation” in the war effort. And it was the Balfour Declaration that formally stated that the British government supported “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people’ – a frankly Zionist position to which Churchill would also commit. As Churchill would later be to the genesis of the United Nations, Balfour was committed to the U.N.’s ill-fated forerunner, the League of Nations, serving as Lord President of the League’s Council from 1919-1922. Their final service together was in the government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin; from 1925-1929, Balfour served as Lord President of the Council while Churchill served as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
On 1 March 1929 – six days before publication – Churchill inscribed this volume for Balfour. In the autumn of 1928, ill-health had finally removed the octogenarian Balfour from active work. Balfour died two years later. When Churchill published his Great Contemporaries in 1937, an entire chapter (pages 237-57) was devoted to Balfour.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).b, (II).a, (III-1&2).a, (IV).a, (V).a; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105. Item #006705