THE SECOND WORLD WAR is, without doubt, Churchill's best known work. It was a huge best-seller when new, and has been in print contnuously for 57 years now, with translations into over 20 languages, including both of the principal enemies of the war. My reference collection includes a 16 foot wall floor to ceiling of nothing but various editions of this set.. THE SECOND WORLD WAR as published in English, consists of six volumes, titles as follows:
This set is both important and highly readable. Not since Julius Caesar and his Gaelic Wars has there been a case of a great leader in war also being an able writer. At the recent Millennium, this set was named the No. 1 non-fiction book of the Century by National Review. As Brookhiser summed it up: " The big story of the Century, told by its major hero". There are many histories of the war, but most are written by historians in the third person. Churchill writes in the first person, in his own elegant style. Although the Nobel Prize for Literature was given for a lifetime of written work, it was this set which convinced the Nobel award committee to waive the normal rule against giving the literature prize to a politician.
This work was a major project, with a vast number of dates, names, facts, and quotations to be verified. There was considerable activity with galley proofs, revisions and correction. It originally appeared serialised in The Daily Telegraph. In 1948 as publication of the first volume was due, Churchill wanted more revisions and corrections. The American publishers, Houghton Mifflin, chose not to wait and published first. So the true first is the American. But the British set from Cassell is much to be preferred. It has better folding maps in 2 and 3 colours, and incorporates the authors revisions. Collectors seeking a set of the American first editions should use extreme caution, as over 90% of the "firsts" offered on internet auctions are, in fact, Book-of-the-Month Club editions, which are attractive full size books, but not firsts. The Canadian first edition was derived from the US firsts and published by Thomas Allen in similar dustjackets, but a richer burgundy cloth. There was also an Australian first edition published by Cassell. They look like British first, but have a different pebble grain black cloth and yellow top edges.
The first of the deluxe editions and still the best was the Chartwell edition from the Education Book Co. Ltd., in 1954. Its bright red canvas standard binding is the most attractive, but the optional light blue leather is far scarcer.
|English 1sts||US 1sts||Canadian 1sts|
|Australian 1sts||Chartwell edition||Heron 12 vol set|
|English one vol||Time-Life 2 vol|
|US Chartwell set||Easton Press||Folio Society|