London: George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1938. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the precursor to Churchill's great war speeches, the British first edition in the rare yellow dust jacket issued just after Churchill became Prime Minister. The book contains text from 41 Churchill speeches spanning 25 October 1928 to 24 March 1938. These criticize British foreign policy and warn prophetically of the coming danger that would become the Second World War.
5,000 copies were printed of this first and only printing of the first edition. Of these 5,000, at least 3,381 and perhaps more than 4,000 were sold with the pale blue, first state dust jacket. The balance - no more than 1,619 copies and quite likely fewer - were offered at a lower price in June 1940 bearing a striking yellow dust jacket. Because the price was reduced with the yellow dust jacket, this has often been called by bibliographers the "Cheap" issue. Given that Churchill had just become Prime Minister in May 1940, it might be more fittingly called the "I Told You So" issue.
The yellow dust jackets were issued on laid paper printed red on the front face and spine with a blank rear face and rear flap. Given the inherent sensitivities of the yellow paper and red print, the paper is quite susceptible to soiling and the red spine lettering is nearly always quite faded. Today these yellow, wartime dust jackets are rare, considerably scarcer than their pale blue first issue counterparts.
This is a very good plus copy in a good plus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, tight, bright, and clean, with sharp corners and only trivial hints of shelf wear to extremities. The only sunning is mild, confined to the spine ends, matching small losses to the dust jacket. The contents are quite clean for the edition, with only a few instances of spotting confined to the fore edges. The top edges show shelf dust, the fore and bottom edges minor soiling and age-toning. The sole previous ownership mark is contemporary – a name and inked date of “Sept. 1940” on the upper front free endpaper recto. Laid in we found six Churchill-related newspaper clippings, only two of which are dated - 1944 and 1947.
The dust jacket shows overall soiling, wear to extremities, an uneven price clip at the lower front flap, and a one inch (2.5 cm) closed tear to the upper rear face. The spine ends and flap fold corners show shallow chipping, the most significant at the upper left spine head to a maximum depth of .5 inch (1.3 cm) and consuming the “Com” in “Compiled by | RANDOLPH S. | CHURCHILL”. The spine is inevitably toned, but only mildly, the red spine print faded but still quite clearly legible. The front face yellow hue and red print remain bright. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The world remembers the resolute war leader to whom the British turned, but it is easy to overlook Churchill’s “wilderness years” in the 1930s. The Churchill who delivered the speeches in this book was both eloquent and largely unheeded, most often out of power and out of favor, and routinely at odds with both his own Conservative Party leadership and prevailing public sentiment.
This book was published three months before the morally specious and politically futile concessions of the Munich Agreement – which, of course, Churchill vehemently opposed. Arms and the Covenant has been called "…the permanent record of one man’s unceasing struggle in the face of resentment, apathy, and complacency" and "probably the most crucial volume of speeches that he ever published." (Frederick Woods) The titular “Covenant” refers to the League of Nations Covenant, intended to maintain peace after the First World War. "As testimony to the book's importance, a copy of the U.S. edition (less subtly titled While England Slept) lay on "President Roosevelt's bedside table, with key passages, including an analysis of the president's peace initiative, underscored" (William Manchester's The Last Lion, Volume II, p.305).
Reference: Cohen A107.3, Woods/ICS A44(a), Langworth p.192. Item #006862