The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War
London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is an exceptional copy of the first edition, only printing, first state of Churchill's first book, based on his exploits with Sir Bindon Blood's expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897. First state is confirmed by the lack of an errata slip and a publisher’s catalogue dated “12/97”. Condition is near fine, a strikingly clean and unrestored example, quite elusive thus. The publisher’s green cloth binding remains square, tight, clean, and beautifully bright with sharp corners. We note only trivial wrinkling to the spine ends and a hint of wear to the hinges and corners. There is no appreciable color shift between the spine and covers and the gilt on both the front cover and spine remains vividly bright. The binding is protected with a removable, clear mylar cover.
The contents are equally and notably clean for the edition. The page edges – even the top edge – are free of dust or soiling, showing only mild age-toning. Within, the contents are atypically bright for the edition and spotting atypically modest, substantially confined to the half-title, title, and dedication pages, light and only intermittent elsewhere through the text. 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 an unobtrusive cosmetic split to the paper at the lower 2 inches (5 cm) of the front pastedown gutter that in no way affects binding integrity. The name “Mary B. Leiter” and a date of “June 1899” are inked in the same hand on the upper half-title. “Leiters” is written in pencil on the upper front free endpaper (unobtrusive on the black paper) above “Alice B”.
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. Copies of this quality are becoming quite rare.
Reference: Cohen A1.1.a, Woods/ICS A1(aa), Langworth p.12. Item #004898