London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1898. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is 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 approaches very good and would merit near-fine if not for a comparatively minor flaw. Of particular note are both an unusually bright binding and unusually clean contents. The publisher’s green cloth binding remains square, firm, clean, and vividly hued. Shelf presentation is superior, with no discernible color shift between the spine and covers, and bright gilt. We note only small bumps to the lower corners and light shelf wear to extremities. The binding is protected with a removable, clear mylar cover.
The contents are equally and notably clean for the edition, with no spotting. Even the page edges are surprisingly clean, showing only mild age-toning. The original black endpapers are present and all maps are intact, including the folding maps at pages 1 and 146, as is the frontispiece and tissue guard. What prevents our grading this copy as better than very good is that the front free endpaper and half-title leaves are nearly loose, hanging on by a proverbial thread. This does not reflect or correspond to any loss of binding integrity. Owing to this minor flaw, we significantly reduce the price that this copy’s clean binding and contents would otherwise command. The sole previous ownership mark is the illustrated bookplate of a “C. Mossman McLean” affixed to the front pastedown.
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 collectible condition.
Reference: Cohen A1.1.a, Woods/ICS A1(aa), Langworth p.12. Item #005661