London: Thornton Butterworth Limited & Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1930. First edition, first printing, first state, first binding state, Canadian issue. Hardcover. This extraordinary copy of Winston Churchill’s autobiography is from the personal collection of Churchill's bibliographer, Ronald I. Cohen. This is the exceptionally rare Canadian issue of the first edition in the unique Canadian dust jacket – one of only two known to us.
Jacketed British first editions are quite rare enough, but, per Langworth (p.133) "First Editions exist (in first and later impressions) with special dust jackets for the Canadian market, the jacket spine imprinted "THOMAS NELSON | AND SONS, LTD" over the Thornton Butterworth name. The price $4.50 appears on the spine and front face. The back face is mostly blank except for a statement that the work is published in the USA by Scribners as A Roving Commission."
This Canadian issue dust jacket is in very good overall condition. Loss is confined to the spine ends and corners, the most significant being an irregular, shallow 3.75 inch (9.53 cm) wide strip loss at the spine head to a maximum depth of .5 inch (1.27 cm). The jacket faces and flaps remain bright and clean, retaining vivid plum hue. The jacket spine is inevitably sunned, but uniformly and not severely, retaining some of its distinctive plum color. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The book beneath is likewise remarkable, noteworthy bibliographically and simply magnificent in terms of condition.
Two states of the first edition, first printing are identified, with a list of either 11 or 12 Churchill titles in the boxed list of "Works by the same Author" on the half title verso. With 11 titles on the half title verso, this copy is definitively first state. There were also a number of first edition binding states, bound in either a coarse or a smooth plum colored cloth, with the front cover titled in either three or five lines. Precedence goes to the coarse cloth and three lines on the front cover which, together with 11 titles on the half title verso, denote first edition, first printing, first state, first binding state.
First printing, first state, first binding state of this copy confirm that it was among the first printed and bound by the publisher. Hence the first Canadian issues occurred simultaneously with the earliest British issues, rendering this jacketed Canadian issue significant. Condition renders it extraordinary. In improbably fine condition, this is the best-preserved copy we have encountered.
The first edition’s binding proved especially vulnerable to fading, soiling, and wear, and the contents quite susceptible to spotting. This copy has been spared all depredations. The coarse cloth remains square, tight, sharp-cornered, and immaculately clean, with vividly bright plum hue and gilt print. Searching for flaws, we note only a faint suggestion of sunning to the slightly wrinkled spine ends. The contents are strikingly bright with no previous ownership marks and no appreciable spotting. The page edges show only a hint of age-toning and shelf dust. We are unlikely to ever see this copy’s equal.
My Early Life covers the years from Churchill’s birth in 1874 to his first few years in Parliament. Herein Churchill says: "Twenty to twenty-five! These are the years!” (p.74) By the end of his own twenty-fifth year, Churchill had been one of the world’s highest paid war correspondents, published his first five books, made his first lecture tour of North America, braved and breasted both battlefields and the hustings, and been elected to Parliament, where he took his first seat only weeks after the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.
My Early Life remains one of the most popular and widely read of all Churchill's books. Churchill may take some liberties with accuracy and over-simplification. Nonetheless, the factual experiences of Churchill’s early life compete with any fiction, and any liberties taken are forgivable, in keeping with the wit, pace, and engaging style that characterize the book.
Reference: Cohen A91.1.a, Woods/ICS A37(aa), Langworth pp.131 & 133. Item #006935