London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1948. First edition, first printing. 3/4 leather. This is a finely bound, full six-volume set of British 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 noteworthy not only for its fine binding but for compelling Second World War provenance. Inked on the free endpaper recto of Vol. VI, ostensibly in the owner’s hand, is found the only previous owner name in the set - “Roy Urquhart | April 1954.” At the head of the following half title is written (not in Urquhart’s hand) “FROM THE LIBRARY OF MAJOR GENERAL R E | URQUHART, COMMANDER OF THE AIRBORNE | DIVISION AT ARNHEM.” Scottish Major General Robert Elliot “Roy” Urquhart (1901-1988) commanded the 1st Airborne Division in the Battle of Arnhem during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. This command saw Urquhart made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and awarded the Dutch Bronze Lion. Urquhart’s citation for the latter read, in part, “During… eight days battle for the capture of the Arnhem road bridge this officer displayed outstanding qualities of leadership and courage… personally organised an operation for the relief of 1st Parachute Brigade and himself became involved in street fighting during this period… his conduct of the defence, and his unequaled cheerfulness and determination were largely instrumental in ensuring the magnificent defence put up by the troops of his Division…” In 1958 Urquhart published a book, Arnhem, describing the battle from his perspective.
Condition of the set is near fine overall. The bindings are three-quarter dark red Morocco over red, marbled paper-covered sides. The bindings feature raised spine bands, title and author/volume number labels in dark green and lighter red, a lion rampant in each unprinted spine compartment, and the publication date of each volume at the spine heel. The covers feature double blind rule transitions. The contents are bound with gilt top edges and silk head and tail bands. The bindings are immaculate, with no reportable wear, toning, or soiling. The first printing contents are well-suited to the bindings, clean and bright with only light, occasional spotting.
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 essential, iconic, and a vital part of the historical record. Richard Langworth calls the six-volume epic "indispensable reading for anyone who seeks a true understanding of the war that made us what we are today."
Given the fragility of the first editions - which were not only printed on post-war "Economy Standards" paper, but also bound in coarse, black cloth bindings that easily wear and mildew - this fine binding is a durable and aesthetically appealing alternative.
Please note that we will ship this substantial, six-volume set at cost.
Reference: Cohen A240.4(I-VI).a, Woods/ICS A123(ba), Langworth p.264. Item #007438