London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1937. First edition, third printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, third printing, increasingly scarce thus with a clean, bright binding protected by its third 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 third printing was issued in October 1937, the same month as the first and second printings, and is virtually identical in appearance. The binding and contents are identical with the sole exception of notation of the first through third printings on the copyright page. The third 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 very good minus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners, bright gilt on the spine and front cover, and deep hue, preserved by the dust jacket. We note trivial wrinkling and shelf wear to the spine ends and two small, barely noticeable spots of mild delamination of the clear coating on the buckram cloth at the bottom edge of the front cover. The contents are clean and bright with no previous ownership marks. Spotting appears primarily confined to the half-title page and the fore edges. The blue top stain is a bit sunned but still discernibly blue. Differential toning to the endpapers corresponding to the dust jacket flaps confirms that this copy has spent life jacketed. The striking orange dust jacket is unclipped, retaining the original lower front flap price. The orange hue remains vivid on the flaps and faces, the jacket spine only slightly sunned. The jacket is also quite respectably clean, light soiling manifest only at the flap folds and spine. Loss is minor, the worst being shallow loss and attendant wrinkling and closed tears at the spine head, with lesser loss to the lower joints and flap fold corners. The dust 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.” 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.d, Woods/ICS A43(a.3), Langworth p.178. Item #007266