Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a full, six-volume, jacketed set of first editions of The Second World War, Winston Churchill's history of the epic 20th Century struggle that was so indelibly stamped by his leadership. This set is unequivocally the best set we have ever encountered and virtually unobtainable in this condition.
There is little to say about condition, given that each volume and dust jacket are truly fine and, without hyperbolizing, almost immaculately clean and bright. The bright, clean, sharp-cornered bindings show only the most trivial hints of shelf wear to a few extremities. The contents are deliciously crisp and bright – no previous ownership marks, no age-toning, no spotting. The only tangible artefact of ownership we find is, laid into the firth volume, the original purchase receipt from “Abraham Lincoln Book Shop” dated “11/20/51”. Even this is noteworthy, since the recorded date of publication for this volume was 23 November 1951. The page edges look untouched by hands or time. The first printing dust jackets are entirely complete and gorgeously bright, the spines as vivid as the jacket faces with absolutely no discernible color shift. We find only trivial instances of shelf wear to extremities, the worst of it being a .5 inch (1.3 cm) closed tear to the lower front face of the third volume. Each jacket is fitted with a clear, removable, archival cover.
The U.S. first edition is not only scarcer than its British counterpart, but is also the true first edition. Churchill vexed his publishers with myriad corrections and clarifications. It is often said that the U.S. publisher, Houghton Mifflin, ran out of patience with Churchill first. However, Churchill's Bibliographer Ronald Cohen attributes the precedence of the U.S. publication to less romantic reasons "legal and financial, and not at all editorial." Irrespective of the reason, the first U.S. volume, The Gathering Storm, was published June 1948, while the British first edition was not published until October 1948. The sixth and final U.S. volume, Triumph and Tragedy, was published during Churchill's second and final Premiership in November 1953, it’s British first edition counterpart following in April 1954.
A Book-of-the-Month Club (BOMC) edition was published virtually simultaneously with the U.S. first edition and is quite similar in appearance (often causing confusion for disappointed collectors who think they have first editions). This set features correct first trade editions in all respects: the dust jackets are unclipped and bear the correct, first printing “$6.00” price. All top edges are stained dark yellow-orange. All volumes bear the distinctive red and yellow head and foot bands. There are no BOMC indentations on the rear covers.
Seldom, if ever, has history endowed a statesman with both singular ability to make history, and singular ability to write it. As with so much of what Churchill wrote, The Second World War is not "history" in the strictly academic, objectivist sense, but rather Churchill's perspective on history. In his March 1948 introduction to the first volume, Churchill himself made the disclaimer, "I do not describe it as history... it is a contribution to history..." Nonetheless the compelling fact remains, as stated by Churchill himself, "I am perhaps the only man who has passed through both the two supreme cataclysms of recorded history in high Cabinet office... I was for more than five years in this second struggle with Germany the Head of His Majesty's government. I write, therefore, from a different standpoint and with more authority than was possible in my earlier books." Certainly, The Second World War may be regarded as an intensely personal and inherently biased history. Nonetheless, Churchill's work remains iconic, a vital part of the historical record.
Please anticipate that this set may require additional postage depending on destination.
Reference: Cohen A240.4(I-VI).a, Woods/ICS A123(ba), Langworth p.264. . Item #007240