London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is a presentation copy of the British first edition, only printing of My African Journey, Churchill's travelogue on Britain's possessions in East Africa, written while he was serving as Undersecretary of State for the Colonies. This copy is embossed in two lines on the upper right of the title page with the words “PRESENTATION | COPY.” Churchill’s bibliographer, Ronald I. Cohen, cites 8,161 copies of the cloth-bound British first edition, of which 7870 were sold and “291 were distributed gratis.” This copy is undoubtedly one of these 291. We have encountered only one other copy embossed thus, and that copy also bore an original publisher’s review slip, corroborating both early and gratis distribution.
Condition is good - sound and original, but unlovely. The striking red cloth binding is square and tight with good spine color and only minor wear to extremities, but regrettably heavily soiled and stained on both covers and spine. The contents remain bright with a crisp feel. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting, endemic to this edition, is very light, with only a few scattered spots within and almost none evident on the page edges.
My African Journey is notable, among other things, for being the only one of Churchill many books to contain photographs apparently taken by the author. The 61 photographs of this edition were tipped in rather than bound, so copies should always be carefully checked to ensure the presence of all illustrations and maps. All are present here, as is the tissue cover at the frontispiece. Of note, the map at page 2 is tipped in as a folding map. The majority of first edition copies of My African Journey we have examined feature this as a tipped in map on a single, unfolded page. This folding map is exactly the same in content and scale as maps in other first edition copies, the difference being that blank one inch margins at the top and bottom of this particular map were left untrimmed after printing, and thus it was tipped into this copy with the top two inches folded over. Given presence of the folding map in a publisher’s presentation copy, we incline to attribute the folding map at p.2 to earlier bindings of the first and only printing.
In the summer of 1907 Churchill left England for five months, making his way after working stops in southern Europe to Africa for "a tour of the east African domains." In early November, Churchill would kill a rhinoceros, the basis of the striking illustration on the front cover of the British first edition of his eventual book. By now a seasoned and financially shrewd author, Churchill arranged to profit doubly from the trip, first by serializing articles in The Strand Magazine and then by publishing a book based substantially upon them. In November 1908 Hodder and Stoughton published My African Journey as a book, which was a substantial 10,000 words longer than the serialized articles.
The British first edition is striking, with a vivid red binding and a prominent front cover bearing a woodcut illustration in blue, grey, and black of Churchill with his bagged white rhinoceros. The red cloth spine proved exceptionally vulnerable to sunning and the lovely books seem to have attracted handling, making wear and soiling the norm. Spotting is also endemic. Bright and clean copies are scarce.
Reference: Cohen A27.1, Woods/ICS A12(aa), Langworth p.81. Item #004102