STEP BY STEP 1936-1939
(Cohen A111) (Woods A45)
While some mistake Step by Step for another volume of speeches, it is, in fact, comprised of eighty-two newspaper articles. These articles begin proceeding the German reoccupation of the Rhineland in March 1936 and continue through the Spanish Civil War, the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis, Hitler’s absorption of Austria and Czechoslovakia, President Roosevelt’s inquiry about what Hitler and Mussolini intended for the States on their borders, ending with Churchill’s May 1939 prediction that Hitler would next attack Poland. Interestingly, Churchill had planned this last article to be titled “Will Hitler Make Napoleon’s Mistakes?” (first published in Illustrated, March 4th 1939, Woods C411/1), but at the last moment he substituted “Turkey’s Significance as a Partner in the Peace Bloc” (Daily Telegraph, May 18th 1939). Perhaps he didn’t wish to give Hitler any helpful hints.
After the events described here, it is a measure of the author that Step by Step ends with an upbeat Epilogue: “Here then, in an hour when all is uncertain, but not uncheered by hope and resolve, this tale stops. Great Britain [is] ready to confront and to endure what may befall. The shock may be sudden, or the strain may be long-drawn: but who can doubt that all will come right if we persevere to the end.” The phrase “all will come right” had been learnt and remembered by Churchill in its Boer original from the Dutch farmers fighting Britain in South Africa nearly forty years before; it was part of the capacious store of maxims carefully filed in his photographic memory.
Another of his qualities, magnanimity, was more extemporaneous. Of Neville Chamberlain, whom he had fought and debated with repeatedly for two years, Churchill writes: “Everyone must sympathize with Mr. Chamberlain in his grievous responsibility. No Prime Minister in modern times has had so much personal power to guide affairs. Everything that he has asked of the nation has been granted; and when he has not asked what many thought necessary, no steps have been taken to compel him. There never has been in England such a one-man Government as that under which we have dwelt for the last year. He has taken the whole burden upon himself, and we can only trust that he will not be found unequal to it.”
-Richard M. Langworth
From the Reviews
“Churchill rushed the articles into print in book form almost on the eve of World War II, as though to provide the nation with a tract for the war about to be fought. The ideas and rhetoric are similar to those in his speeches of the period, but because the articles do not treat domestic issues, they show a greater concentration and continuity. In fact, chance has imposed on this work a structure that gives it some of the qualities of an intentionally literary composition. Quickly changing circumstances and unexpected events generate much suspense and excitement; thus, Churchill’s joy over France’s initial standing by Czechoslovakia is followed in the very next piece, ‘The Austrian EyeOpener,’ by the electric effect on everyone of Hitler’s sudden seizure of Austria. This is, in short, solid drama as well as a neat little history of the period.”
-Manfred Weidhorn in Sword and Pen, 1974
By the time this work appeared the British public was thoroughly roused from the sleep noted by the American publishers of Arms and the Covenant (American title: While England Slept), and Step by Step enjoyed good sales. As a result, it is not uncommon on the secondhand market today, despite having had only one reprint in the last half century. An important work, it belongs on the shelf of every Churchill reader.
The white jacket soils easily, and although it is not rare, one rarely sees truly clean examples. The book holds up better; clean firsts with bright gilt are relatively common, but prices drop off quickly as condition worsens. Reprints in jackets sell for half as much without jackets, a fourth as much if well worn.
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Cohen A111.1 / ICS A45a
Publisher: Thornton Butterworth Ltd., London, 1939
Dark green cloth. Top board stamped blind, publisher’s device ranged lower right and two thick rules top and bottom which extend across the spine. Spine blocked gilt with title and author’s name at top and publisher’s name at bottom. Top page edges unstained. 8vo, 368 pages numbered (1)-(366) (+2), one internal map and a folding map of “Modern Europe” tipped in after page (368). The verso of the half-title contains a list of eighteen of the author’s works. Endpapers are white. Published 27 June 1939 at 12s. 6d. ($3.13).
Impressions and Quantities
Woods records three impressions: 7500 in June 1939, 1500 in November 1939, 1800 in February 1940; but there was a second impression in June 1939, making four in all.
Identifying first editions: title page verso contains the line, “first published…1939” with no further reprints indicated.
Note: a typographical error on page 7 (citing page 252 instead of 352 for “After President Roosevelt’s Message”) persists in all impressions.
Jackets are printed black with lilac decorative borders and rules on heavy cream-white paper: on front flap, book title/author name (top) and price (lower right corner); on back flap, blurb for Great Contemporaries; on back face, description of Step by Step.
First American Edition
Cohen A111.2 / ICS A45b
Publisher: G. P. Putnams Sons, New York, 1939
Dark blue cloth blocked silver and red. The top board bears the title in silver on a 3/8-inch high red band near the top; five similar red bands appear on the spine reading STEP | BY STEP | [decorative device] | CHURCHILL toward the top and PUTNAM toward the bottom. Top page edges stained red. 8vo, 336 pages reset and numbered (i)-xii and (1)-(324), frontispiece Wide World photo of the author opposite title page. Endpapers are white. Published 25 August 1939 at $4.
Two impressions are known: August 1939 (5000 copies) and November 1940 (750).
Identifying first editions: title page verso contains no indication of a later impression.
Dust Jackets and Variants
Uniform style with Putnam’s Great Contemporaries and While England Slept. Printed black and medium green on white paper, with an Acme photograph of the author on the front face. First edition jackets contain the price and book description (front flap), a blurb for Chamberlain’s In Search of Peace (back flap), and a description of Great Contemporaries on the back face. Second impression jackets advertise Rufus Isaac First Marquess of Reading on back flap and The Voice of Destruction on rear face.
The American First is taller and more elegant than its English counterpart and includes a frontispiece, but it lacks the two maps of the Thornton Butterworth Edition. Many collectors believe the differences are sufficient to warrant owning one of each. Like the other Putnam productions, the text has been completely reset with American spelling.
Although jacketed copies are far more common than the preceding Putnam titles, only an immaculate jacket wrapped around a fine book will bring a high price compared to an English first in similar condition. But condition is crucial. Unjacketed copies are almost common and should not cost a great deal, unless in exceptionally nice condition. Reprints are less often seen but certainly worth less.
Cohen A111.3 / ICS A45c
Publisher: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London, 1942
Navy cloth blocked gilt on spine (title, author name, publisher name). 8vo, 358 pages numbered (1)-(358), one internal map and a folding map of “modern Europe” tipped in after page (358). No illustrations. Dust jacket printed black and red on heavy textured cream paper. Published March 1942 at 10s. 6d. ($2.63). Second impression 1943 bound in smooth cloth with dust jacketed printed on distinctly inferior, thin, unscored paper. The second impression dust jacket replaces Thoughts and Adventures with Step by Step on the rear face.
There were two interesting deletions (no doubt supervised by Churchill) to the Macmillan Edition: “Enemies to the Left” (4 September 1936) and “The Communist Schism” (6 October 1936), both critical of the Communist international movement. Much as he omitted Trotsky and Savinkov from Great Contemporaries, considering the sensibilities of his new Soviet ally, Churchill with his usual thoroughness dropped these articles from Step by Step lest they be brought to the attention of Stalin. The latter was not blind, however, and several times chided Churchill for his anti-communist views. But the Prime Minister usually managed to josh Stalin along and turn the subject humorous. On one occasion Churchill said the British electorate was getting pinkish; Stalin replied that pink was a healthy color.
Macmillan Editions are relatively common and inexpensive. This edition should be acquired for its unique textual alterations.
Cohen 111.4 / ICS A45d
Publisher: Odhams & Co. Ltd., London, 1947
8vo, 368 pages numbered (i)-(xvi) and 1-(352) with two maps integral with the text. Four impressions: 1947, 1948 (2),1949. (Odhams offered this title in 1954 to buyers of Malcolm Thompson’s Churchill: His Life and Times, under the general series title, “The People’s Home Library.”)
Copies appeared in the two Odhams bindings: standard bright red cloth blocked gilt and black on top board and spine, page edges unstained; deluxe red leatherette with author signature blocked gilt on top board and black leather title/author label on spine combined with multiple devices, rules and the Odhams name, also gilt, page edges stained red. Dust jackets printed black, medium blue and light blue on white paper.
The first impression is identified on the verso of its title page by no date beyond 1947 and the code “S.947Q.”
Odhams was a mail order bookseller, which helps explain the lack of prices on dust jackets. Deluxe bindings of first four impressions were shipped in grey cardboard boxes with Great Contemporaries, My Early Life and Thoughts and Adventures at 32s. ($6.40) postpaid to mail order clients.
Completely reset, the Odhams Edition includes a new publisher’s note at page ix and a paragraph listing Churchill works at page viii. The former folding map was now printed over a double page spread. More importantly, time had moved on, the Iron Curtain had descended, and Churchill made sure the two original articles on Communism were reinstated.
Books for Libraries Issue
Cohen A111.5 / ICS A45e
Publisher: Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, New York, 1971
Medium blue cloth blocked blind on top board (publisher’s logo) and silver and red on spine (CHURCHILL, title, publisher’s logo silver, title on red panel between silver bars); an offprint of the Putnam edition with identical pagination; the frontispiece is reproduced on regular page stock. This volume was offered until the early 1990s by N. W. Ayer. A companion to While England Slept, it needs to be reprinted.
Danish: SKRIDT FOR SKRIDT
Published by Gyldendal: Copenhagen 1939 (2,300 copies), issued in dark blue wrappers.
French: JOURNAL POLITIQUE 1936-1939
Published by Amiot-Dumont: Paris 1938. In addition to the trade edition (bound in wrappers) there was a limited edition of 130 on high quality paper by Rives.
German: SCHRITT FÜR SCHRITT 1936-39
Published by Allert De Lange, Amsterdam 1940. Issued in wrappers or light blue cloth, both with turquoise dust jacket printed dark blue and red. Another edition was published by Jedes: Amsterdam (no date).
Italian: PASSO A PASSO
Published by Mondadori: Rome 1947, bound in half dark blue cloth and medium blue paper covered boards; dust jacket carries full color portrait of the author. Reprinted 1982.
Norwegian: MOT STUPET
Published by Nasjonalforlaget: Oslo 1963, bound in half white cloth and paper covered boards; possibly also issued unbound. Polish: KROK ZA KROKIEM Published by Zaloga: Warsaw 1939 Spanish: PASO A PASO Published by Editorial Clarid: Buenos Aires 1943
Swedish: STEG FÖR STEG 1936-1939
Published by Skoglund: Stockholm 1939; bound in red, orange and white card wrappers, blue cloth or half leather and marbled boards; jackets printed blue and black on white. Priced at kr9.50 unbound, kr13.50 bound.
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Click here for a list of terminology, bibliographic information, and other notes.