Item #007233 Great Contemporaries. Winston S. Churchill.
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries
Great Contemporaries

Great Contemporaries

New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1937. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a jacketed first U.S. edition, first printing, of 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.

While not quite perfect, this is certainly the best copy we have encountered. Condition is better than near fine in a dust jacket approaching near fine. The blue cloth binding is square, tight, and immaculately clean. We note only mild bruising to the lower corners and some wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents are improbably bright and crisp. The book feels unread. The red top stain remains vividly bright. The untrimmed fore edges are likewise improbably clean, showing not even any appreciable age-toning. Only the endpapers show a little transfer browning – from the pastedown glue. The sole previous ownership marks are contemporary – a man’s name, “Los Angeles” address, and “1938” date inked on the front pastedown, with this owner’s presumed wife (same surname) having inked her own name and a date of “March 12, 1938” on the half title. The deep blue hue of this dust jacket’s spine and front face proved prone to toning and the paper of the jacket prone to brittleness and consequent loss. This jacket is beautifully bright, the blue hue entirely unfaded. Moreover, the jacket is notably clean and highly complete, with wear – including some short, closed tears, attendant wrinkling, and only fractional chipping – confined to extremities. The dust jacket is neatly price-clipped, but compensates with the sticker of the Los Angeles bookshop that originally sold it and their price of “$4.00” (the original publisher’s price) affixed to the upper rear flap. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.

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 A105.2.a, Woods/ICS A43(ab.1), Langworth p.179. Item #007233

Price: $1,000.00

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