London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, only printing, first state of Winston Churchill’s first book, based on his exploits with Sir Bindon Blood’s expedition on the Northwest frontier of India in 1897. Provenance of this copy is both relevant and poignant. The name “Lt. Bertram Abadie | 11th Hussars” is inked on the half title. The front pastedown bears the decorative bookplate of “H. R. Abadie”. Like Churchill, Lieutenant Harry Bertram Abadie (1872-1901) served in both the Malakand campaign of 1897-98 and in the Second Boer War. But while the Boer War launched Churchill’s career, it ended Lieutenant Abadie’s life.
Abadie entered the 11th Hussars in October 1892, being promoted to lieutenant in 1894. He served with Chitral Relief Force under Sir Robert Low in 1895, then with Sir William Lockhart’s Tirah Expeditionary Force in 1897-98, earning mention in despatches (London Gazette, 5 April 1898) for his work as a transport officer. He was appointed ADC to Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Hunter in March 1900 and mentioned in despatches (LG 8 February 1901) as “deserving of much praise” during the Siege of Ladysmith. He was again mentioned in despatches on 5 September 1901 (LG) and was granted the DSO and medal with five clasps. Unfortunately, he never knew of the award. Abadie died of enteric at Norval’s Point on 25 February 1901. Churchill had taken his first seat in Parliament nine days earlier.
One cannot help wondering how different the 20th Century might have been had the fates of Lt. Abadie and Lt. Churchill been reversed. Lieutenant Abadie’s father, to whom this book passed upon his son’s death, was Major General H. R. Abadie, CB. Before his son’s death, he was both promoted to major-general and awarded a CB. He was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jersey just a few months before his son’s death.
This copy is in better than good plus condition, showing some age and wear but fully intact and unrestored. The publisher’s green cloth binding remains square and tight with bright gilt. We note moderate overall soiling and mild spine toning. Wear is very light and confined to extremities apart from a significant bump to the lower front corner causing a two-inch diagonal crease. The contents are complete, with spotting primarily confined to the prelims and page edges, which also show age-toning. First state is confirmed by the lack of an errata slip and a publisher’s catalogue dated “12/97”. 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 no evidence of the common cracks at the gutters. The sole previous ownership marks are Lieutenant Abadie’s inked name and his father’s bookplate.
When this book was written and published, Churchill was a young cavalry officer still serving in India. 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 – but this was his first book-length work. 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. Fewer than 2,000 copies were printed. Collector-worthy copies grow increasingly scarce and expensive.
Reference: Cohen A1.1.a, Woods/ICS A1(aa), Langworth p.12. Item #005169