New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1941. U.S. first edition, fourth and final printing. Hardcover. This is the precursor to Churchill's great war speeches, the U.S. first edition, fourth and final printing in dust jacket, published in September 1941, sixteen months after the author became wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain.
This fourth printing was issued in 1941 (despite the 1938 date on the title and copyright pages). Even though this final printing was only 1,000 copies, two different variants of both the dust jacket and the binding are known. The fourth printing bindings were issued in both a smooth blue cloth identical to the first, second, and third printings and a strikingly different coarse orange cloth unique to the fourth and final printing. Fourth printings came in two dust jackets - one identical to that of the third printing and another with changes to the rear face and rear flap. This fourth printing is bound in the publisher's blue cloth and wrapped in the dust jacket identical to that of the third printing - the variant closest in appearance to that of the first printing.
This is a handsome book, a substantial 9.5 x 6.375 inches (25.13 x 16.19 cm) bound in blue cloth with red banners on the front cover and spine lettered in silver and red topstain. This is an attractive, very good plus copy in a good plus dust jacket. The blue cloth binding remains beautifully square, clean, bright, and tight, flawed only by lightly softened front cover corners and a little wrinkling to the spine ends. The contents are equally impressive, immaculately clean with no spotting or previous ownership marks. The fore and bottom edges are perfectly clean and the red-stained top edge retains uniformly bright color. The distinctive red, white, and black dust jacket is neatly price-clipped at the upper front flap, but otherwise complete, though with wrinkling and short closed tears to extremities, the red spine panels sunned, and mild soiling to the white rear face. The dust jacket is newly fitted with a clear, removable, archival cover.
While England Slept contains text from 41 Churchill speeches criticizing British foreign policy, spanning 25 October 1928 to 24 March 1938. This collection has been called "…the permanent record of one man’s unceasing struggle in the face of resentment, apathy, and complacency”. The speeches were compiled by Churchill's son, Randolph, who contributed a preface and is credited with compilation. Randolph would do the same for his father's first volume of war speeches, Into Battle, published in an almost unrecognizable world less than three years later.
At the time, on the eve of the Second World War, the British edition was given the politically palatable title Arms and the Covenant – referencing the failed Covenant of the post-WWI League of Nations. The U.S. title – While England Slept - is more candid.
The world remembers the resolute war leader to whom the British entrusted their fate, but it is easy to forget the years leading up to the war, which Churchill spent persistent, eloquent, and largely unheeded. Churchill bibliographer Frederick Woods called this edition "probably the most crucial volume of speeches that he ever published". As testimony to the book's importance, a copy of While England Slept lay on "President Roosevelt's bedside table, with key passages, including an analysis of the president's peace initiative, underscored." (William Manchester, The Last Lion, Volume II, p.305)
Bibliographic reference: Cohen A107.2.d, Woods/ICS A44(b.4). Langworth p.193. Item #007431