The Unknown War: The Eastern Front 1914-1917
London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1941. Hardcover. This collectible Second World War reprint is the scarce Macmillan issue of the sixth and final book of Churchill's acclaimed history of the First World War, an excellent copy in the quite scarce dust jacket.
This copy is near fine in a very good plus dust jacket. The navy blue cloth binding remains tight and clean, with vivid spine gilt, beautifully rounded spine, and sharp corners. We note only a hint of blistering to the cloth along the joints and a little wrinkling at the spine ends. The contents are beautifully bright and crisp. This book feels unread. Differential toning to the endpapers consistent with the dust jacket flaps confirms what the binding already testifies – that this copy has spent life jacketed. The sole previous ownership mark we find is a name and wartime date of August 14, 1942 in faded ink on the front pastedown. Spotting appears confined to the page edges. The dust jacket faces remain bright and complete, with only mild soiling. The jacket spine is mildly toned with an abrasion and tiny hole at the spine head center and a trivial chip at the bottom center. Shelf presentation is quite impressive withal. The dust jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
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. Originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, The World Crisis spans the 1911-1918 war years (the first four volumes). The fifth volume, The Aftermath, covered the postwar years 1918-1928. In originally proposing this sixth and final volume to his publisher, Churchill wrote: "In the previous volumes of the World Crisis I have described only in a few pages the course of events in the Eastern theatre. They have merely been the background of our main drama of the war. But now I think I might write a volume called 'The Eastern Front', which would be separate from but supplementary to our five volume history." It may have been prophetic, as the Eastern Front would prove critical to Churchill’s efforts as Britain’s leader during the Second World War.
The Unknown War was originally published by Thornton Butterworth (as The Eastern Front) in 1931, just as Churchill was beginning his “wilderness years” decade. Churchill spent nearly the entirety of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, frequently at odds with both his Government and prevailing public sentiment. But in 1940 Churchill became wartime Prime Minister. And also in 1940, Thornton Butterworth went under and a different publisher, Macmillan, acquired the rights to several of Churchill’s books.
This first and only Macmillan issue of The Unknown War was published in December 1941, the same month the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States finally formally entered the war. This is technically an “issue” and not an “edition” since it was printed from first edition plates. Hence this 1941 Macmillan’s size is the same as that of the 1931 first edition. Moreover, its navy cloth binding and tan dust jacket, while not the same, do echo those of the first printing. This edition is both collectible in its own right and may serve as a less expensive substitute for the Thornton Butterworth first edition when assembling a set.
Reference: Cohen A69.13, Woods/ICS A31(h), Langworth p.123. Item #006980