New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, six-volume U.S. first edition set in the publisher’s uniform issue blue and gold dust jackets and, quite notably, the publisher’s original slipcase.
Marlborough is Winston Churchill’s monumental biography of his great ancestor, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The British first edition was issued in four volumes. The U.S. publisher chose to split the first two volumes into two books each, resulting in a six-volume set that is otherwise identical in content to the British. In 1938, upon publication of the sixth and final volume, the publisher chose to issue full sets of first edition volumes in uniform blue and gold dust jackets, boxed in a dark green publisher's slipcase for $16.50. Today such slipcased sets are quite rare indeed. Here is one.
The slipcase has done its job, and all six books within are pristine. The green cloth bindings are immaculate, square, and tight. The contents of all six volumes are pristine - crisp, clean, bright, and tight. We find no spotting and no previous ownership marks. Even the text block edges are unusually clean. All six are first edition, first printings, with the Scribner's "A" on the copyright page. The dust jackets are bright and clean with only light wear to extremities, including some scuffing to the spines. Consonant with their being offered by the publisher in a slipcase at a single price, all six jackets are neatly price-clipped. Apart from this, the only loss of note is minor chipping at the head of the Volume I spine to a depth of .125 inch (.32 cm). All six dust jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers. The green publisher's slipcase is significantly edge worn and split along two of the back seams. Nonetheless, it is complete and notable merely being present, irrespective of condition.
Marlborough was conceived a full 40 years before publication of the final volume. Churchill originally considered the idea of the biography in 1898, returning to it in earnest in 1928. Marlborough ultimately took 10 years of research and writing and is the most substantial published work of Churchill's "wilderness years" in the 1930s, which he spent politically isolated, often at odds with both his own party and prevailing public sentiment. Churchill passed into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. It is perhaps not incidental that Churchill’s great work of the 1930s was about a great ancestor; Churchill may have wondered if the life history he was writing might eclipse his own. It has been said that "To understand the Churchill of the Second World War, the majestic blending of his commanding English with historical precedent, one has to read Marlborough.”
Few would accuse Churchill of objectivity. Nonetheless, as a work of history it drew high praise. Upon reading the proofs, James Lewis Garvin, editor of The Observer, wrote “I think it to be… the greatest of all your works… Your full brush has never had more mastery over space and colour…” Two months after Volume I was published, on 12 December 1933, T.E. Lawrence wrote to Churchill: “I finished it only yesterday. I wish I had not… The skeleton of the book is so good. Its parts balance and the main stream flows… Marlborough has the big scene-painting, the informed pictures of men, the sober comment on political method, the humour, irony and understanding of your normal writing: but beyond that it shows more discipline and strength: and great dignity. It is history, solemn and decorative.” When Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, it was partly for “mastery of historical and biographical description” on the strength of Marlborough, which was specifically cited and quoted by the Swedish Academy.
Reference: Cohen A97.4(I-VI).a, Woods/ICS A49(ba), Langworth p.169. Item #006995