Arms and the Covenant / While England Slept Browse current inventory of this title

By Winston S. Churchill
First published in 1938 by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd., London

"Now the victors are the vanquished,
and those who threw down their arms in the field and sued for an armistice
are striding on to world mastery."

((Speech of 24 March 1938)


Arms and the Covenant is the precursor to Churchill's famous war speeches.  The book contains text from 41 Churchill speeches spanning 25 October 1928 to 24 March 1938.  These criticize British foreign policy and warn prophetically of the coming danger.  

The speeches were compiled by Churchill's son, Randolph, who contributed a preface and is credited with compilation on the title page and jacket spine.  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.  The “Covenant” in the title of Arms and the Covenant refers to the League of Nations Covenant, the instrument that was to maintain peace in the wake of the First World War.

The world remembers the resolute war leader to whom the British turned, 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 the U.S. edition lay on "President Roosevelt's bedside table, with key passages, including an analysis of the president's peace initiative, underscored" (William Manchester's The Last Lion, Volume II, p.305).

The British first edition saw only a single printing of 5,000 copies published on 24 June 1938.  Of these, at least 3,381 and perhaps more than 4,000 were sold with a distinctive pale blue first state dust jacket.  

The balance - no more than 1,619 copies and quite likely fewer - were offered at a lower price in June 1940 bearing a striking yellow dust jacket.  Because the price was reduced with the yellow dust jacket, this has often been called by bibliographers the "Cheap" issue.  Given that Churchill had just become Prime Minister in May 1940, we submit it might be more fittingly and flatteringly called the "I Told You So" issue.  The yellow dust jackets were issued on heavy, yellow laid paper printed red on the front face and spine with a blank rear face and rear flap.  Given the yellow paper and red print, they obviously proved quite susceptible to soiling and the red spine lettering is nearly always quite faded.  Today these yellow, wartime dust jackets are exceedingly rare and considerably more scarce than their pale blue first issue counterparts.

While the British first edition was published in late June 1938, the U.S. first edition was published at the end of September.  These intervening months of course brought the world closer to war and Churchill closer to vindication.  Whether it was the march of global events, sensationalist U.S. marketing sensibilities, or just comparative American candor, Putnam's suggested the U.S. title While England Slept.  Thus the U.S. first edition is one of the few Churchill first editions for which the U.S. titles differs from the British.

The U.S. first edition is bound in smooth navy cloth with red banners, silver print, and red-stained top edge in the same style as the preceding U.S. first edition of Great Contemporaries (1937) and the succeeding U.S. first editions of Step by Step (1939) and Blood, Sweat, and Tears (1941).  The striking U.S. first edition dust jacket bears a photo of Churchill and is printed in vivid red, black, and white.  The U.S. edition saw four printings.  The first and second printing dust jackets are identical, with changes to the third and fourth printings.

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