London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1923. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a six-volume British first edition, first printing set of Winston Churchill’s history of the First World War in which he played such a critical, controversial, and varied role. 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. Mere presence of the jackets commands attention; this particular set is compelling, the jackets in superior condition to those in the precious few full sets we have been able to offer over the years. Of particular note, the 1911-1914 jacket is the first issue, with a blank rear face that does not advertise subsequent volumes in the series, and the exceptionally scarce Eastern Front jacket and the two 1916-1918 dust jackets – so prone to brittleness and fragmentation – are substantially complete and in one piece.
This set features volumes that approach near fine in jackets that are very good or better. All six bindings are tight and square, bright and clean as only jacketed copies can be, with vivid spine gilt and almost none of the typical scuffing to the handsome but wear-prone, smooth navy cloth. We note only light shelf wear to extremities, including a few small corner bumps and incidental blemishes, as well as a touch of blistering to The Aftermath, primarily along the rear joint. The contents are not only internally bright, but with a crisp, unread feel across the set. Spotting, endemic to these editions, is inevitably present, but modest, only light and intermittent within, substantially confined to endpapers and page edges. The only previous owner name is both intriguing and contemporary. Three lines inked on the front free endpaper recto of the first volume read: “R. F. Knight | Agamemnon | Apr/23” “Agamemnon” 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 other meanings. Small, vintage, bookseller stickers are affixed to the lower front pastedowns of the 1911-1914 and 1916-1918 Part I volumes.
The dust jackets are an impressive shelf presence, all correct first printing examples. The 1911-1914 jacket is toned on the spine, perimeter, and upper rear face, soiled, and worn at extremities, but nonetheless substantially complete with trivial loss confined to the spine ends and flap fold corners. The 1915 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 diminish excellent shelf presentation. The two 1916-1918 dust jackets suffer chipping to extremities and some closed tears, but are notably clean, with almost no appreciable spine toning and – remarkably – in one piece, rather than split at the flap folds and hinges as is typical. The 1916-1918 Part I jacket has two tiny losses at the center left spine and minor scarring just below the volume number, removing the original, printed publisher’s price (quite likely done by the Sydney bookseller whose sticker is affixed to the book’s lower front pastedown). The Aftermath jacket is nearly complete, with only fractional loss to the joint and flap fold extremities, a few short, closed tears, and quite mild spine toning. The Eastern Front dust jacket – both extremely scarce and notoriously brittle – 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 irregular, shallow loss intermittently along the top edges and lesser loss to the bottom edges. The pale green hue of the paper is lightly, uniformly tanned on the spine, but the red subtitle print remains bright and distinct. All six dust jackets are fitted with clear, removable, archival covers.
Reference: Cohen A69.2(I).b, (II).a, (III-1&2).a, (IV).a, (V).a; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105. Item #006838