London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This is the British first edition, first printing of Churchill’s fourth published book, finely bound in full dark red morocco by the renowned Bayntun-Riviere bindery of Bath, England. The exceptional goatskin binding features a hubbed and gilt ruled spine bearing the title and author with gilt ruled compartments featuring a gilt lion rampant. There are gilt rule borders on the covers, gilt rules on the binding edges, gilt page edges, and double blind ruled gilt turn-ins with decorative corner devices and framing striking, marbled endpapers. Churchill's facsimile signature is stamped in gilt on the center front cover. Even the gold and red head and foot bands are executed with noteworthy skill and aesthetic effect. Overall, a striking example of the binder's craft and a reminder that all fine bindings are not created equal.
“Bound by Bayntun (Riviere), Bath, England." is gilt-stamped on the lower front pastedown. In 1939 the firm of George Bayntun acquired the Rivière Bindery, the year before he died. The Bayntun-Rivière Bindery has been in residence on Manvers Street in Bath since 1939. Condition is fine. The binding is clean, bright, and tight, the goatskin supple with no discernible wear, toning, or reportable blemishes. The contents are excellent, worthy of the binding. All maps and plans are intact. The spotting endemic to this edition is notably absent. We find no previous ownership marks. Searching for flaws, we note only a few minor scuffs to the page edge gilt.
London to Ladysmith via Pretoria is the first of Churchill's two books based on his newspaper despatches sent from the front in South Africa. In October 1899, the second Boer War erupted between the descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa and the British. Churchill, an adventure-seeking young cavalry officer and war correspondent, swiftly found himself in South Africa with the 21st Lancers and an assignment as press correspondent to the Morning Post. Not long thereafter, on 15 November 1899, Churchill was captured during a Boer ambush of an armored train. His daring and dramatic escape less than a month later made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career.
London to Ladysmith via Pretoria contains 27 letters and telegrams to the Morning Post written between 26 October 1899 and 10 March 1900. It was published in England in mid-May 1900 and sold well. Churchill returned from South Africa in July 1900 and spent the summer campaigning hard in Oldham. Churchill had lost the Oldham by-election – his first attempt at Parliament – in July 1899. Since then, as Arthur Balfour (who became Prime Minister in 1902) put it in a 30 August 1900 letter, the young Churchill had had “fresh opportunities - admirably taken advantage of – for shewing the public of what stuff you are made.” Indeed; Churchill won his first seat in Parliament on 1 October 1900 in the so-called "khaki election".
Reference: Cohen A4.1.a, Woods/ICS A4(a.1), Langworth p.53. Item #005756