London: George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., 1936. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed British first edition, only printing of the third volume of Churchill's Marlborough. This third volume carries the story forward to the end of the campaign of 1708. The volume is a substantial 608 pages with 24 illustrations, 2 document facsimiles, 3 color maps, and 64 other maps and plans.
This British first trade edition is not only dense in content but aesthetically impressive, measuring 9.25 x 6.25 inches (23.5 x 15.9 cm) and roughly 2 inches thick (5.1 cm), bound in plum cloth with beveled edges, the Churchill coat of arms in gilt on the front cover, and a gilt top edge. Unfortunately, the plum cloth bindings of Volumes I-III proved highly susceptible to sunning. (A different, more fade-resistant dye was used in Volume IV). Without the dust jackets, Volumes I-III are nearly always spine faded, and the jackets are increasingly elusive.
Condition of this first edition, only printing of Volume III is very good plus in a very good dust jacket. The plum cloth binding is tight and bright with rich, unfaded color, vivid gilt, and sharp corners. We note only a very slight forward lean and trivial shelf wear to extremities. The contents are bright with a crisp, unread feel. Trivial spotting appears confined to the endpapers and otherwise bright fore and bottom edges. The top edge gilt is bright, only mildly scuffed. The sole previous ownership mark is a Second World War gift inscription – “To Michael. From. Mother. Christmas. 1942” – inked on the front free endpaper. The dust jacket is complete, with no reportable loss and retaining the original lower front flap price. The jacket shows modest overall soiling, mild spine toning, and light wear to extremities. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Marlborough was initially 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. This decade saw Churchill pass into his sixties with his own future as uncertain as that of his nation. Churchill may well have expected that the life history of his great ancestor might ultimately eclipse his own. But that’s not what happened. The final volume was published almost exactly one year before the outbreak of the Second World War and just twenty months before Churchill became wartime prime minister.
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 A97.2(III).a, Woods/ICS A40(aa), Langworth p.166. Item #007060