London: Thornton Butterworth, Ltd., 1923. First edition. Hardcover. This British first edition, first printing of the first volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War is rendered noteworthy by the quite scarce first printing 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 six volumes published between 1923 and 1931. This first volume (1911-1914) covers the first four years Churchill spent as First Lord of the Admiralty, as well as the beginning of the war.
The British first edition is handsome, but the smooth navy cloth proved quite susceptible to wear and dulling, the contents prone to spotting and toning. Truly bright and clean bindings are seldom seen without the original dust jackets, and the dust jackets are exceptionally scarce. Although there were eight printings (between 1923 and 1930) of the first edition of this 1911-1914 volume, the 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.) It is also the starting point for the difficult task of assembling a full, jacketed, first printing set.
Condition of this example is very good in a very good dust jacket. The navy cloth binding is square and tight with only light shelf wear to extremities. The chief defect is light, superficial moisture damage to the lower right of the front cover (consonant with similar moisture staining to the jacket). The contents retain a pleasingly fresh, slightly stiff feel. Notable for the edition, we find no spotting. The sole previous ownership inscription is contemporary, inked on the front free endpaper recto “To Father, the Old Man, | 11th May 1923: | Paul:”. There is some glue residue on the front pastedown, as if from removal of a tipped-in bookplate, image, or clipping which is no longer present and left no offsetting, either to the pastedown or to the facing front free endpaper; perhaps it had to do with the original gift presentation. The text block edges show mild age-toning, with a hint of shelf dust to the top edges. The first printing dust jacket is substantially complete, with only fractional loss at the spine ends and flap fold corners and a tiny loss at the midpoint of the front flap fold. Overall soiling is light, as is wear to extremities. The lower right front face shows faint moisture staining, consonant with the moisture staining to the binding beneath, and a faint rectangular spot of discoloration centered on the price indicates removal of a sticker, thankfully with only minor discoloration and scarring. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
In October 1911, aged 36, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915.
By November, Churchill resigned even his nominal Cabinet posts to spend the rest of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches at the Front. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated by the Dardanelles Commission and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).b, Woods/ICS A31(ab), Langworth p.105. Item #006786