Item #007232 Great Contemporaries. Winston S. Churchill.
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries

Great Contemporaries

London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1937. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the finest jacketed copy we have encountered of the British first edition, first printing. 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 copy is magnificently fine in a near fine dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is superlative – immaculately clean, square, and tight, with deep, unfaded blue hue, sharp corners, and no wear. The contents are likewise immaculate – improbably bright and crisp with no spotting, no previous ownership marks, and uniform, dark, unfaded blue top stain. Differential toning to the dust endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms what the magnificent binding already testifies – that this copy has spent life jacketed. The book feels unread and, if not for the evidence of time in the toning of the endpapers, could practically pass as new.

There were six printings of the first edition between October and December of 1937, but from the second printing on there are differences to the dust jackets, rendering the first printing dust jacket elusive. This particular first printing dust jacket is not just elusive, but virtually unobtainable thus. The dust jacket is gorgeously bright, unclipped (retaining the original lower front flap price, and all but entirely complete, with only fractional hint of loss at the upper spine corners and flap fold corners. The vivid orange color remains deliciously bright, even on the spine, which shows only the faintest, barely discernible hint of toning. Trivial wear is confined to extremities and soiling is so mild as to be nearly insignificant. The dust jacket is protected beneath a removable, clear, archival cover.

This exceptional copy is housed in a full navy blue Morocco goatskin Solander case with rounded spine and silver spine print.

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.” Naturally, in the course of sketching the character of his contemporaries Churchill necessarilyreveals some 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)

Churchill's piece about Hitler can be a shock to the modern ear, as it underscores his ability to write a balanced appraisal of his subject while expressing his earnest desire to avoid the war that he would fight with such ferocious resolve only a few years later. There is a reason this book has seen many subsequent editions in the intervening years. It was written with what has been called "penetrating evaluation, humor, and understanding."

While some of the subjects of Churchill's sketches have receded into history, many remain well-known and all remain compellingly drawn. This is as engaging a read today as it was in 1937.

Reference: Cohen A105.1.a, Woods/ICS A43(a.1), Langworth p.178. Item #007232

Price: $5,600.00

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