London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1900. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This magnificent British first edition, first printing, first state of Churchill's third book and only novel is bound in full red morocco by Asprey of London. This exceptional binding features raised and gilt-decorated spine bands and gilt ruled panels with alternating lion rampant, title, and author, covers with gilt rule borders, Churchill's facsimile signature in gilt on the front cover, gilt-decorated edges, and double-gilt rule and gilt-decorated turn-ins framing marbled endpapers, all page edges gilt and head and foot bands. "ASPREY" is stamped in gilt on the lower rear pastedown turn-in. The luxury goods firm Asprey of London was established in 1781. Asprey began offering finely bound reference books in the early 1900s, which after the Second World War developed to include a range of both antiquarian and new books finely bound by Asprey.
Condition is fine. The binding is bright and clean with no appreciable wear. We note only a few tiny, barely discernible scuffs and slight curvature and text block gap to the rear cover, doubtless owing to the fact that the original green front cover and spine cloth are bound in following the text. The contents are suited to the binding, notably crisp and bright with none of the spotting endemic to the edition and no previous ownership marks. Also preserved is the original advertisement page for The River War and The Story of the Malakand Field Force immediately following the text. There are two states of the first printing, this first state distinguished by an integral title page with the print history on the verso.
Even though Savrola was Churchill’s third published book, it was actually the first book he undertook and the second he completed. Churchill’s dramatic tale of a democratic revolution in a fictional European state revolves around the titular hero. A very young Churchill was exuberant about publication at the time, though he would later make deprecating comments about the book. In his 1930 autobiography he wrote, "I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from reading it [Savrola].” Nonetheless, he penned a foreword to a new edition in 1956: "The preface to the first edition in 1900 submitted the book 'with considerable trepidation to the judgment or the clemency of the public.' The intervening fifty-five years have somewhat dulled though certainly not changed my sentiments on this point."
Irrespective of its literary virtues and Churchill's own mixed feelings, this novel is a window on the perspective and sentiment of a very young Churchill. The British first edition was issued from American plates, with only 1,500 copies of the first printing published on 12 February 1900. It was bound quite differently from its U.S. counterpart, in green cloth with Churchill's facsimile signature in gilt on the front cover. The British first edition proved less durable than its U.S. counterpart, and is most often seen significantly worn and spotted. This fine binding of superlative first printing contents is a strikingly beautiful improvement on the typical first edition.
Reference: Cohen A3.2.a, Woods/ICS A3(ba.1), Langworth p.41. Item #005722