London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is Churchill's first book, based on his exploits with Sir Bindon Blood's expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897. Offered here is a superior, collector worthy first edition, first state copy with interesting provenance. The sole previous owner name is "M. G. Cassels" in pencil on the half-title and what appear to corresponding corrections to pp. 187-89 and p. 207. On page 207, the third name in a list of "Wounded severely" British officers is "O. R. Cassells, 35th Sikhs." The "O." is crossed out and replaced with a "G" for the first initial and one of the "l"s struck to match the "G. Cassels" on the half-title. The corrections are in pencil and the "G" appears to be in the same hand as the "G." on the half-title.
Lieutenant Cassells (or Cassels) was wounded while fighting alongside Churchill; his gallantry and good fortune are described in some detail on pp. 187-189. In each of the four instances of "Cassells" appearing in these pages, a single "l" is neatly crossed out in pencil. It seems quite plausible that the signature on the half-title page and corrections to the wounded officer's name were made by the officer himself.
When this book was written and published, Churchill was a young cavalry officer still serving in India. While he had successfully applied his pen as a war correspondent - indeed the book is based on his dispatches to the Daily Telegraph and the Pioneer Mail - this was his first book-length work. The young Churchill was motivated by a combination of pique and ambition. He was vexed that his Daily Telegraph columns were to be published unsigned. On 25 October 1897 Churchill wrote to his mother: "...I had written them with the design... of bringing my personality before the electorate." Two weeks later, his resolve to write a book firming, Churchill again wrote to his mother: "...It is a great undertaking but if carried out will yield substantial results in every way, financially, politically, and even, though do I care a damn, militarily."
Having invested his ambition in this first book, he clearly labored over it: "I have discovered a great power of application which I did not think I possessed. For two months I have worked not less than five hours a day." The finished manuscript was sent to his mother on the last day of 1897 and published on 14 March of 1898. Publication was arranged by Churchill's uncle while the author was still in India, resulting in numerous spelling and detail errors. Churchill was incensed by the errors and acted with haste to address them. Hence later states of the first edition bear errata slips. Home Issue copies also bear a 32-page Longmans, Green catalogue bound in at the back, which is dated either "12/97" or "3/98" at the foot of page 32.
With only a little more than 1,900 copies bound, this first edition of Churchill's first book is both desirable and elusive in collector worthy condition. Here is such a copy, notable not only for provenance, but also for very good plus condition. The green cloth binding remains square with only light wear to extremities. We find a tiny ink mark below the author's name, but the spine gilt remains bright and we note only trivial overall soiling. The contents remain bright with modest intermittent spotting. First state is confirmed both by the lack of an errata slip and by a rear catalogue dated "12/97". The original black endpapers are intact, as are the frontispiece, tissue guard, and all maps, including the two folding maps at pages 1 and 146. The binding remains firmly attached, though we note some tenderness at the half-title verso, where there is a cosmetic split at the gutter, the paper separated but the mull and binding cords beneath still intact. We find a miniscule, unobtrusive bookseller sticker affixed to the lower front pastedown.
Reference: Cohen A1.1.a, Woods/ICS A1(aa), Langworth p.12. Very good plus. Item #003069