London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1937. Hardcover. This is the scarce Keystone Library issue of the sixth and final book of Churchill's acclaimed history of the First World War in the original dust jacket. 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. In originally proposing this sixth and final book to his U.S. publisher, Charles Scribner, Churchill wrote: "In the previous volumes of the World Crisis I have described only in a few pages the course of events in the Eastern theatre. They have merely been the background of our main drama of the war. But now I think I might write a volume called 'The Eastern Front', which would be separate from but supplementary to our five volume history."
The British first edition, first printing, is the scarcest volume of the six. Respectable copies are in particularly short supply and copies with the original dust jackets extravagantly rare. The publisher's Keystone Library edition offered here was produced six years after the first British edition, had only a single printing, and is nearly as scarce as the first edition, particularly in the dust jacket. Thornton Butterworth's Keystone Library series was intended as a lower priced series for titles which had run their course as trade editions. Today these Keystone Library editions are increasingly prized by collectors, particularly when accompanied by their original dust jackets.
Thornton Butterworth printed the "Keystone Library" issue of The Unknown War using their first edition plates. Consequently, the contents are identical, with the addition of a Keystone Library list of publications in the prelims, the Keystone Library device on the title page, and notation of this later issue on the copyright page. Even the first edition’s folding color map of the first edition is retained at page 368. The binding size and style are the same as for the British first edition of 1931. The only difference in style is that, for this issue, the publisher decided to use the same title as the U.S. first edition, using the original British first edition title as a subtitle instead. The binding cloth, though similar in color to the first edition, is coarser and did not wear quite as well. The dust jacket is quite different, printed black and red on heavy, scored, faintly greenish paper decorated with the Keystone Library logos.
This first and only Keystone Library issue is very good in a better than good plus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square and tight with bright spine gilt. Modest shelf wear is confined to extremities and there are slivers of toning at the spine ends corresponding to fractional dust jacket losses. The contents retain a crisp feel and we find no previous ownership marks. The contents show light age-toning with modest spotting primarily confined to prelims and page edges, otherwise only occasional and scarce throughout. All maps and illustrations are present, including the color folding map at p.368, which suffers only some edge wear to the blank outer margin protruding from the text block.
The dust jacket is substantially complete, minor loss confined to the spine ends and corners. The spine is significantly toned, the spine’s red keystone logo and original price legible, but faint, and there is overall light wear to the hinges, flap folds, and extremities. On the rare occasions that we encounter these Keystone Library dust jackets, a later bookseller has typically affixed a new price sticker to cover the original prices. In this case, the original price, printed at the lower spine and twice on the lower front panel, remains unobstructed. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Reference: Cohen A69.10, Woods/ICS A31(e), Langworth p.120. Item #006742