London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a superior copy of British first edition, first printing of Churchill's fourth published book, noteworthy for both condition and provenance. 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. The British first edition is striking, bound in tan cloth with an illustration of an armoured train on the front cover accompanied by the author's facsimile signature and with the Union flag and Transvaal flag in gilt on the spine beneath a red subtitle. The binding is visually arresting, but the first edition proved notoriously fragile and prone to wear, soiling, and spotting. Truly fine copies are virtually a chimera.
This first edition, first printing is nearly as good as we encounter - not fine but nonetheless unusually clean and bright, approaching near fine condition. The binding remains square and tight, with sharp corners and just the slightest shelf wear, confined to hinges and extremities. Shelf presentation is quite compelling for the edition, the gilt lettering and flags bright, the red subtitle clearly visible, no appreciable soiling, and only modest wrinkling which does not substantively detract from the appearance. Of particular note is the lack of toning; we find no discernible color shift between the covers and spine. The illustrated front cover is likewise strikingly bright with only minor soiling to it and the blank rear cover. The contents are bright with a crisp feel, despite spotting primarily confined to the prelims and page edges. The original black endpapers are intact with no sign of cracking at the gutters. All maps and plans are present, with the folding maps at the title page and p.366 fully intact.
The sole previous ownership mark is the armorial bookplate of “Bangor” affixed to the front pastedown bearing the family crest and motto. The bookplate is almost certainly that of Maxwell Ward, 6th Viscount Bangor (1868-1950). Like Churchill, Bangor was educated at Harrow. He later joined the Royal Artillery. After his father’s death in 1911, he succeeded to the title of Viscount Bangor and retired from active duty in 1912, though he was recommissioned in 1914 after the start of the first World War. Following the war, Bangor was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Years Honours. He was a representative peer in the House of Lords from 1913 to 1950, and an Ulster Unionist member of the Senate of Northern Ireland from 1921-1950, serving for two decades as its speaker.
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 #005924