London: George Newnes Limited, 1935. First Illustrated edition. Hardcover. This is the first illustrated edition of Churchill's history of the First World War, a full, four-volume set of the striking Home Library issue.
Churchill originally published his history between 1923 and 1931 in six volumes titled The World Crisis. This first illustrated edition – retitled The Great War – was published in 26 magazine format parts in 1933 and 1934. "Magazine format" does not do justice to the publication, which is profusely illustrated on very durable, heavy paper. The publisher subsequently offered two different 3-volume binding options. A final publisher offering in 1935 was this four-volume set produced jointly with The Home Library Book Company. This last binding option is the most elaborate and aesthetically impressive. It features silver, gilt, and blind stamped decoration on deeply textured red boards with beveled edges. The contents are bound with marbled endpapers, gilt top edges, and silk head and foot bands. This binding commands attention on the shelf.
This set is in very good plus condition. The bindings are square and tight and beautifully bright, with no color shift between the covers and spines and modest shelf wear to the spine ends and corners. Shelf presentation is exceptional. We would grade this set as truly fine if not for a bit of wear to a few corners and spine ends and a tiny, unobtrusive blemish to the upper Volume I spine to the right of the title print. The contents are uniformly clean, with no spotting. The gilt top edges remain bright. We find the same small, faint, indecipherable ink stamp to the center front free endpaper recto of each volume; these are the only previous ownership marks.
Winston Churchill was in a special position to write the history of the First World War, which nearly cost him both his political and corporeal lives and in which he played such a critical, controversial, and varied role. First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 until 1915, after the Dardanelles disaster and the slaughter at Gallipoli, Churchill was scapegoated and forced to resign. He spent political exile as a lieutenant colonel of a battalion in the trenches. Before war's end, Churchill was exonerated and rejoined the Government, foreshadowing the political isolation and restoration he would experience nearly two decades later leading up to the Second World War. Despite Churchill's political recovery, the stigma of the Dardanelles lingered. Hence Churchill had more than just literary and financial compulsion to write his history.
Reference: Cohen A69.9.d, Woods/ICS A31(dc), Langworth p.118. Item #007674