Great Contemporaries. Winston S. Churchill.
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries

Great Contemporaries

London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1937. First edition, fifth printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, fifth printing, increasingly scarce thus with a clean, unfaded binding protected by a fifth printing dust jacket. Great Contemporaries is Churchill's much-praised collection of insightful essays about 21 leading personalities of the day - including the likes of Lawrence, Shaw, and, most famously, Hitler.

This fifth printing was issued in November 1937 swiftly following the first four printings, and is virtually identical in appearance. The binding and contents are identical with the sole exception of notation of the first through fifth printings (spanning September – November 1937) on the copyright page. The fifth printing dust jacket faces, spine, and rear flap are identical to those of the first printing. Only the lower front flap text differs.

This copy is very good plus in a good plus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is clean and tight, with sharp corners, bright gilt and overall deep, unfaded blue hue. We note only negligible toning corresponding to dust jacket loss at the upper right of the spine and the adjacent upper front cover and a faint vertical crease to the spine cloth. The contents are respectably bright, only mildly age-toned, and retain a crisp feel. We find no previous ownership marks and no spotting. The blue-stained top edges retain uniformly deep color. The fore and bottom edges show only incidental soiling. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms what the binding already testifies – that this copy has spent life jacketed. The dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original lower front flap price. There is trivial chipping to the flap fold and hinge extremities and the lower front flap, a one-inch (2.54 cm) closed tear at the upper rear hinge, and a shallow loss, 2.5 inches wide by a maximum depth of .5 inch (6.35 x 1.27 cm) spanning the upper right spine head and upper left front face. Fortunately, the spine head loss does not impact the title print. The faces and flaps remain bright, the spine lightly and evenly toned, the jacket showing general light soiling most notable at the flap folds and spine. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.

Our colleague from whom we acquired this copy represented that it was from the library of Benjamin B. King (1916-2016) an intelligence officer for the British Royal Air Force during World War II who played a critical role at Bletchley Park decoding German military communications and ultimately breaking the German Enigma code, and in the postwar years became a long-time employee of the World Bank.

Neville Chamberlain, perhaps Churchill’s most vexing political opponent at the time Great Contemporaries was published, wrote to Churchill on 4 October 1937: “How you can go on throwing off these sparkling sketches with such apparent ease & such sustained brilliance… is a constant source of wonder to me.” In the course of sketching the character of his contemporaries Churchill necessarily reveals much of his own character and perspective. Churchill's portrait of T.E. Lawrence, published here just a few years before the Second World War, might well have been written about the author rather than by him: "The impression of the personality of Lawrence remains living and vivid upon the minds of his friends, and the sense of his loss is in no way dimmed among his countrymen. All feel the poorer that he has gone from us. In these days dangers and difficulties gather upon Britain and her Empire, and we are also conscious of a lack of outstanding figures with which to overcome them. Here was a man in whom there existed not only an immense capacity for service, but that touch of genius which everyone recognizes and no one can define." (Great Contemporaries, p.164) While some of the subjects of Churchill's sketches have receded into history, many remain well-known and all remain compellingly drawn.

Reference: Cohen A105.1.f, Woods/ICS A43(a.1), Langworth p.178. Item #007216

Price: $650.00

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