New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923 - 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, first edition, first printing, jacketed set of Winston Churchill’s history of the First World War. Notably, this set includes the extravagantly rare first printing 1911-1914 dust jacket, rendering it the only full set in first printing dust jackets offered on the world market in our memory.
A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, 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 originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, the first four volumes spanning the war years 1911-1918 and the final two volumes covering the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front). This U.S. edition preceded its British counterpart, rendering it the true first edition.
This set - with a 1911-1914 first printing dust jacket, a 1915 first printing dust jacket, and 1916-1918 volumes in the publisher’s slipcase – is a singular opportunity for collectors. Only three surviving first issue dust jackets for the 1911-1914 volume are known – making these jackets among the scarcest in the Churchill canon. In this case, existence eclipses condition; none of these three known examples are complete, each suffering loss and wear.
This 1911-1914 dust jacket is unclipped with the original $6.50 price intact and with minimal toning, but nonetheless quite worn and stained. There is a significant irregular loss at the spine head consuming some of the title lettering and closed tears and wrinkling at the spine heel, as well as losses to the upper corners and a few closed tears. The front face shows a roughly exclamation mark-shaped stain. The book and jacket are clearly a lifelong mated pair. The binding of the first printing of this first volume proved particularly prone to both extreme sunning and blackening of the gilt. Since jacketed copies of the first printing are virtually unknown, so too are truly fine copies of the first edition, first printing. This copy retains remarkable color owing to the dust jacket. Only the spine ends show modest toning, corresponding to dust jacket losses. The stain on the front face of the dust jacket is mirrored with a corresponding, lighter stain to the front cover of the volume. The contents remain clean, bright, and tight.
The balance of this set’s dust jackets are also collector worthy, even if overshadowed by the 1911-1914 prodigy. The first printing 1915 jacket – second in scarcity only to its 1911-1914 counterpart – is differentiated from the second printing by subtle differences in the type and rules. The 1915 jacket retains the original “$6.50” front flap price. We note a shallow, irregular strip loss to the spine head, fractional chipping to the lower spine and extremities, short closed tears, and light toning and scuffing to the spine. The 1916-1918 jackets are impressive, unclipped and almost entirely complete (tiny loss at the bottom corner of the Vol. I rear face and at the upper front Vol. II hinge), with only light wear to extremities, mild, even spine toning, and incidental scuffs and soiling. The Aftermath jacket is neatly price-clipped – the only price-clipped jacket in the set - with only small chip losses confined to extremities and light soiling. The Unknown War is unclipped, the “$5.00” price intact, the faces bright and intact with only fractional loss to corners, the spine lightly and uniformly toned with an irregular V-shaped loss at the head that terminates just above the “K” in “UNKNOWN”, though attendant abrasion affects the “T” in “THE”, the “NK” in “UNKNOWN” and the upper right of the “W” in WAR”. All six dust jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers.
The bindings of the balance of the set are beautifully bright and clean, all in near fine or better condition, with compellingly bright bindings that are exclusive to jacketed copies. The contents are also notably clean; we find no spotting and no previous ownership marks, only dust soiling to a few top edges and mild age-toning. The 1916-1918 volumes, which have been protected by their slipcase, are truly fine. The beautifully bright 1915 volume has cosmetic splits to the pastedowns at the gutters, exposing the intact mull beneath and not affecting binding integrity.
The publisher originally issued the two 1916-1918 volumes as a boxed set in a cardboard slipcase. Of the few surviving slipcases we have seen, some have three pasted labels, some only two. A large, 8.25 x 5.75 inches (21 x 14.6 cm) label printed dark red on ivory on the right side of the slipcase features an extensive blurb about Churchill and the work. A smaller label on the upper spine of the slipcase, likewise printed dark red on ivory, measures 4 x 3.25 inches (10.2 x 8.3 cm) and features the title, author, and publisher. An orange promotional label on the lower portion of the slipcase spine measuring 3.75 x 3 inches (9.5 x 7.6 cm) advertises Churchill's preceding World Crisis volumes. This slipcase features all three labels. The slipcase is intact, though worn and soiled.
All six volumes are housed in a rigid, red buckram-covered slipcase with an internal slot specifically designed to accommodate the publisher’s original 1916-1918 slipcase. A label affixed to the left side closely mirrors the original publisher’s label on the spine of the 1916-1918 slipcase. Condition of the red cloth-covered slipcase is excellent.
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. Even Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, with whom Churchill had been variously at odds for nearly two decades, told Churchill on his final day as First Lord “Well, there is one thing at any rate they cannot take from you. The Fleet was ready." (The World Crisis: 1915, p.391) 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.
Years later, Churchill’s wife, Clementine, recalled to Churchill’s official biographer “I thought he would never get over the Dardanelles; I thought he would die of grief.” (Gilbert, Vol. III, p.473) 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.
Nearly a quarter of a century after he was forced to resign from the Admiralty and nearly a decade after he published the sixth and final volume of The World Crisis, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939, the position from which he would ascend to his storied wartime premiership in May 1940.
Reference: Cohen A69.1.(I).a, A69.1(II).b, A69.1(III-1&2).a, A69.1(IV).a, A69.1(V).a. Item #006825