Toronto: William Briggs, 1909. First Canadian edition. Hardcover. This genuine rarity is the first and only Canadian issue of My African Journey, among the scarcest English language first editions of Churchill's book-length works. We have seen only a precious few on the market over many years. My African Journey is Churchill's travelogue on Britain's possessions in East Africa, written while he was serving as Undersecretary of State for the Colonies. This book is notable, among other things, for being the only one of his many books to contain photographs apparently taken by the author.
In the summer of 1907 Churchill left England for five months, making his way after working stops in southern Europe to Africa for "a tour of the east African domains." In early November, Churchill would kill a rhinoceros, the basis of the striking illustration on the front cover of the British first edition of his eventual book. By now a seasoned and financially shrewd author, Churchill arranged to profit doubly from the trip, first by serializing articles in Strand Magazine and then by publishing a book based substantially upon them. In November 1908 Hodder and Stoughton published My African Journey as a book, which was a substantial 10,000 words longer than the serialized articles.
Both the Canadian and British first editions are striking, with a vivid red binding and a pictorial front cover bearing a woodcut illustration of Churchill with his bagged white rhinoceros depicted in blue, grey, and black. This Canadian edition is distinguished by the publisher "BRIGGS" on the lower spine, in lieu of the British edition's "Hodder & Stoughton". This Canadian edition also bears a unique title page. As with the British edition, the red cloth spine of this Canadian proved exceptionally vulnerable to sunning and the 61 photographs were tipped in rather than bound, so copies should be carefully checked to ensure the presence of all illustrations and maps.
Condition of this copy is good plus, sound and unrestored, but nonetheless with wear and defects. The publisher’s red cloth binding is square and reasonably tight, though worn and soiled. The illustrated front cover remains bright despite two abrasions to the rhino’s front feet and light overall scuffing. The blank rear cover is likewise bright though moderately soiled. The spine is both toned and soiled with some fraying to the spine ends. Nonetheless, the gilt spine print remains legible. The contents are respectably bright with mild spotting confined to the page edges. The front hinge is very slightly shaken with a cosmetic split to the endpapers starting at the lower pastedown gutter, but the mull remains strong and the binding fully intact. Two of the plates called for in the list of illustrations are absent – “The Ripon Falls (Source of the Nile)” at p.120 and “Mr. Churchill and Burchell’s White Rhinoceros” at p.186. All other illustrations and the maps are present, as is the protective tissue guard at the frontispiece. The sole previous ownership mark is the oval ink stamp on the front pastedown of “Compton’s” of Parliament Street, Toronto indicating – rather amusingly – “This book exchanged for 5c”. It seems to have been a poor trade for the previous owner!
Reference: Cohen A27.7, Woods/ICS A12(ac), Langworth p.85. Item #005955