London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1927. First edition. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, first printing, of the fourth volume of Winston Churchill's monumental history of The First World War, quite rare thus in a clean and substantially intact original dust jacket.
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. The World Crisis was originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, with the first four volumes spanning the war years 1911-1918 and the final two volumes covering the postwar years 1918-1928 (The Aftermath) and the Eastern theatre (The Eastern Front). The third and fourth volumes, covering the years 1916-1918, were issued as “Part I” and “Part II” respectively. The events of the 1916-1918 volumes, of which this is the second, include Churchill's time at the Front, his return to the Cabinet, and Armistice Day, marking the formal end of hostilities.
Jacketed copies of any World Crisis first editions are elusive. The 1916-1918 volumes present a special problem, as the paper used for the jackets proved particularly brittle, leading the surviving jackets to commonly split and fragment. This copy is an exception, near fine in a very good dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is simply superb – square, immaculately clean, and beautifully bright with sharp corners, vivid spine gilt, and only the most trivial shelf wear to extremities. The contents are crisp, bright and feel unread. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps corroborates what the binding already testifies; this copy has spent life jacketed. Spotting – modest for the edition and primarily confined to the first and final leaves and page edges – is the only thing that prevents our grading this volume as “fine”. The sole previous ownership mark we find is the tiny sticker of a Sydney bookseller affixed to the lower front pastedown. The jacket suffers chipping to extremities and some closed tears, but is notably clean with almost no appreciable spine toning. More significant, the jacket is remarkably in one piece, rather than split at the flap folds and hinges as is typical. The jacket shows minor scarring on the lower spine just below the volume number, removing the original, printed publisher’s price; this is likely the work of the same Australian bookseller whose sticker is affixed to the lower front pastedown. The dust jacket is newly fitted with a clear, removable, archival cover.
In October 1911, aged 36, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. He entered the post with the brief to change war strategy and ensure the readiness of the world’s most powerful navy. He did both. Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a naval campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately proved disastrous, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915. Years later, Churchill’s wife, Clementine, recalled to Churchill’s official biographer “I thought he would never get over the Dardanelles; I thought he would die of grief.” (Gilbert, Vol. III, p.473)
By November, Churchill resigned even his nominal Cabinet posts to spend the rest of his political exile as a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion in the trenches at the Front. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated by the Dardanelles Commission and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
References: Cohen A69.2(III-2).a, Woods/ICS A31(aa), Langworth p.103. Item #007018