Item #007226 The World Crisis. Winston S. Churchill.
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis
The World Crisis

The World Crisis

New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923 - 1931. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, first edition, first printing, jacketed set of Winston Churchill’s history of the First World War. Notably, this set includes the extravagantly rare first printing 1911-1914 dust jacket. This is unequivocally the best full set in first printing dust jackets of which we are aware. Consider it a virtual certainty that no better set exists.

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. 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 U.S. edition preceded its British counterpart, rendering it the true first edition.

This set - with a 1911-1914 first printing dust jacket, a 1915 first printing dust jacket, and 1916-1918 volumes in the publisher’s slipcase – is a singular opportunity for collectors. Only three surviving first issue dust jackets for the 1911-1914 volume are known – making these jackets among the scarcest in the Churchill canon. In this case, existence eclipses condition; none of these three known examples are complete, each suffering loss and wear. Nonetheless, this is definitively the best of the three.

This 1911-1914 dust jacket is unclipped with the original $6.50 price intact, more complete than the other two known examples, and surprisingly clean and bright, with only light, uniform spine toning. The only loss of note are chips to a maximum depth of .5 inch (1.3 cm) at the spine head. Other loss is fractional, confined to the spine heel, upper edges, and flap fold corners. There are short, closed tears and associated wrinkling to the bottom edge of the front face, though no associated loss. The chief aesthetic defect is clear tape reinforcement at the spine ends, flap fold corners, and part of the adjacent upper edges. Though the jacket steals the proverbial show, the book beneath is also remarkable. This first printing of this first volume proved particularly prone to both extreme sunning and blackening of the gilt. Since jacketed copies of the first printing are virtually unknown, so too are truly fine copies of the first edition, first printing. This copy retains remarkable color owing to the dust jacket, and is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners and only minimal scuffing. The contents remain crisp, clean, bright, and tight, with no spotting, mild dust soiling to the top edges, and an illustrated bookplate affixed to the front pastedown.

The balance of this set’s dust jackets are also eminently collector worthy, even if overshadowed by the 1911-1914 prodigy. The first printing 1915 jacket – second in scarcity only to its 1911-1914 counterpart – is differentiated from the second printing by subtle differences in the type and rules. The 1915 jacket retains the original “$6.50” front flap price. We note only fractional chipping to the spine and flap fold extremities extremities, short closed tears with associated wrinkling, and modest toning and scuffing to the spine. Intriguingly, the front flap features both inked notation in Portuguese (“18 de junho de 1944”) and the inked name “W. C. GARBEE, JR.” The 1916-1918 jackets are quite impressive, unclipped, the “$10.00 Two Volumes” prices intact, and entirely complete, with no loss or tears and mild, even spine toning. The Aftermath jacket is simply magnificent, better than near fine – spectacularly bright and entirely complete. Of course, the original “$5.00” front flap price is intact. The sole defect is a closed tear at the upper rear joint that disappears beneath the dust jacket protector. Like The Aftermath, the dust jacket for The Unknown War is magnificent and – seemingly impossible for a nearly century-old dust jacket – truly fine, meaning entirely complete, immaculately clean, and improbably bright, the original “$5.00” front flap price, of course, intact. This jacket could pass for as-new, suffering only the slightest wrinkling to a few extremities. All six dust jackets are protected beneath clear, removable, archival covers.

The bindings of the balance of the set are beautifully bright and clean, each in near-fine or better condition, with compellingly bright, tight, clean, and, and sharp-cornered bindings that are exclusive to the best jacketed copies. The 1916-1918 volumes, which have been protected by their slipcase, are virtually as-new. The sole exterior defect we find is a nick to the cloth of the lower front joint of the 1915 volume. The contents are also exceptionally clean. Spotting is confined to only a scattered few spots to the top edges of The Aftermath. The only ownership mark we find is a faint, cryptic ink-stamp “9J376” on the final free endpaper verso of The Aftermath.

The publisher originally issued the two 1916-1918 volumes as a boxed set in a cardboard slipcase. Of the few surviving slipcases we have seen, some have three pasted labels, some only two. A large, 8.25 x 5.75 inches (21 x 14.6 cm) label printed dark red on ivory on the right side of the slipcase features an extensive blurb about Churchill and the work. A smaller label on the upper spine of the slipcase, likewise printed dark red on ivory, measures 4 x 3.25 inches (10.2 x 8.3 cm) and features the title, author, and publisher. An orange promotional label on the lower portion of the slipcase spine measuring 3.75 x 3 inches (9.5 x 7.6 cm) advertises Churchill's preceding World Crisis volumes. This slipcase features all three labels and is the cleanest example we have seen, with only mild soiling and light wear to extremities.

Churchill was in a special position to write the history of the First World War, which nearly cost him both his political and corporeal lives. 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 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.

Nearly a quarter of a century after he was forced to resign from the Admiralty and nearly a decade after he published the sixth and final volume of The World Crisis, Churchill famously returned to the Admiralty in September 1939, the position from which he would ascend to his storied wartime premiership in May 1940.

Reference: Cohen A69.1.(I).a, A69.1(II).b, A69.1(III-1&2).a, A69.1(IV).a, A69.1(V).a. Item #007226

Price: $24,000.00

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