Toronto & London: Ryerson Press & George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1933-1938. First edition. Hardcover. This is a full, jacketed set of the unusual and scarce Canadian issue of the first edition. Marlborough is Winston Churchill’s monumental biography of his great ancestor, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough.
This Canadian issue, like its British counterpart, is four volumes published individually between 1933 and 1938. Also like their British first edition counterparts, these Canadian issues are physically impressive. The books measure 9.25 x 6.25 inches (23.5 x 15.9 cm) and are roughly 2 inches (5.1 cm) thick, each volume with a profusion of illustrations, facsimiles, maps, and plans. However, the Canadian first editions are far more scarce than their British counterparts with subtle differences in appearance and presentation. The Canadian editions of the first three volumes were issued by Ryerson Press instead of Harrap, bound in a dark purple cloth instead of the plum of the British edition, featuring dark purple top edge stain instead of the gilt of the British editions, without the British edition’s beveled-edge boards, and omitting the Churchill arms from the front covers. The dust jackets appear nearly identical, differing only in "Ryerson Press" in lieu of "Harrap" printed on the lower spine and omission of front flap pricing. The third volume is also the last issued by Ryerson; the fourth and final "Canadian" volume was issued instead by Harrap, since by 1938 arrangements between Harrap and Ryerson had ended. Hence the Canadian Volume IV issue was a strange hybrid, with the dark purple binding of the preceding three Canadian issues with the non-beveled edge boards, but with the Churchill Arms in gilt on the front cover, gilt top edges instead of dark purple topstain, and “Harrap” instead of “Ryerson” on the lower jacket spine, lower binding spine, and title page.
We seldom are able to offer full Canadian sets of Marlborough, particularly in dust jackets. This full, jacketed set features volumes varying from good plus to very good plus in dust jackets ranging from poor to very good minus. All four volumes feature square and tight bindings with sharp corners. Beyond minor shelf wear to extremities, flaws include the following. Volume I: some toning, scuffing, and staining. Volume II: mild sunning to the spine head consonant with small dust jacket losses. Volume III: mild moisture exposure to the bottom edges. Volume IV: a hint of blistering to the upper front cover fore edge. The contents of all four volumes are crisp and clean. We find no spotting and no previous owner names. Mild age-toning is visible at the otherwise clean fore and bottom edges. A Montreal bookseller sticker is affixed to the lower left Volume IV front free endpaper recto. The dust jackets are noteworthy just for being present, but certainly a mixed bag in terms of condition. The Volume I jacket is soiled and worn with sizable losses to the spine ends, as well as a shallow strip loss to the upper front face, small chips to the upper rear face, and a price-clipped lower front flap. The unclipped Volume II jacket has loss at the spine head, a toned spine, a scratch to the rear face, and minor wear to extremities. The Volume III jacket is nearly complete, with only fractional loss at the spine head, but with a toned spine and moisture staining to the spine heel and lower rear flap fold corner. The Volume IV jacket is bright and unclipped with minimal spine toning, though with a stain to the spine and loss and abrasion to the spine heel. All four jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers.
Marlborough took 10 years of research and writing and is the most substantial published work of Churchill's "wilderness years" in the 1930s. 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 A97.3, Woods/ICS A40(ac), Langworth p.169. Item #006997