London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1923. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. A quarter of a century before the Second World War endowed him with lasting fame, Churchill played a uniquely critical, controversial, and varied role in the “War to end all wars”. Then, being Churchill, he wrote about it. His history of the First World War, The World Crisis, was originally published in six volumes between 1923 and 1931, 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).
This full British first edition, first printing set is bound by Bayntun-Rivière, a compellingly handsome example of the fine binder’s craft. The elegant, dark blue, Morocco goatskin bindings are deferential to, while greatly improving upon, the original navy cloth. The bindings feature hubbed spines with gilt-ruled compartments, gilt-decorated bands, and gilt-hatched spine ends. Each spine features the title, subtitle, author, and publication date. The covers feature gilt rule borders and gilt-decorated edges, each front cover gilt-stamped with Churchill’s facsimile signature. The contents are bound with all edges gilt, blue and white silk head and foot bands, and combed pattern marbled endpapers framed by generous, double gilt-ruled turn-ins with decorative corner devices.
“BOUND BY BAYNTUN (RIVIERE) BATH, ENGLAND” is gilt-stamped on each lower front pastedown turn-in. In 1939, the year the Second World War began, the firm of George Bayntun acquired the Rivière Bindery. The Bayntun-Rivière Bindery has been in residence on Manvers Street in Bath ever since.
This compellingly handsome set is in very good plus condition. All six bindings are square, clean, tight, and unfaded with excellent shelf presentation and no reportable wear or defects except for a small, unobtrusive repair to the final volume’s upper left front cover. The contents of all six volumes are notably clean. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting barely merits mention, confined to a handful of isolated spots to a few prelims. The gilt page edges show some dulling. The contents are collated complete, including all of the extensive illustrations, maps, diagrams, etc. in The Eastern Front, including the color folding map following the text. We find discrete repairs to a short tear at the lower blank margin of the folding map and to a tear at the upper edge of the p.9-10 leaf of the 1916-1918 Part I volume.
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. Even Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, with whom Churchill had been variously at odds for nearly two decades, told Churchill on his final day as First Lord “Well, there is one thing at any rate they cannot take from you. The Fleet was ready." (The World Crisis: 1915, p.391) Nonetheless, when Churchill advocated successfully for a campaign in the Dardanelles that ultimately led to strategic failure and terrible losses, a convergence of factors sealed his political fate. Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign, leaving the Admiralty in May 1915.
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. And, of course, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939. 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.
Reference: A69.2(I).b, A69.2(II).a, A69.2(III-1&2).a, A69.2(IV).b, A69.2(V).a; Woods/ICS A31(ab); Langworth p.105. Item #007043