London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, only printing of Churchill's first book, based on his exploits with Sir Bindon Blood's expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897. Condition of this unrestored, original, and complete copy approaches very good. Though it is technically ex-library, there are no external indicators. The publisher’s green cloth binding remains remains tight and square with bright gilt and nicely rounded spine. Slight softness to the corners, moderate overall soiling, and a .25 inch (6 mm) split at the spine head do not substantially detract from exterior presentation.
The only indications of ex-library status are a bookplate and an ink stamp. The plate is that of “Cardiff Public Libraries” affixed to the front pastedown indicating that this book was “Bequeathed to the Central Library” in “May, 1935” by a “William Price James, M.A.” We find no other previous ownership marks. A .75 inch (19 mm) diameter round ink-stamp of “Cardiff Public Libraries” is found at the foot of the blank title page verso, with diminutive library notation beneath.
The contents remain quite respectably clean for the edition. All maps are intact, including the folding maps at pages 1 and 146, as is the frontispiece and tissue guard. The original black endpapers are present, with just a .75 inch (19mm) unobtrusive cosmetic split to the paper at the front pastedown gutter that does not affect binding integrity and a tiny chip to the upper left corner of the front free endpaper. Spotting is mild for the edition, incidental within and modest to the page edges, which show light dust soiling to the top edges and a little shelf soiling to the bottom edges. Second state of the first and only printing is confirmed by an errata slip tipped in at p. 1 and a rear catalogue dated “3/98”.
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.
Reference: Cohen A1.1.b, Woods/ICS A1(aa), Langworth p.12. Item #004550