London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1899. Hardcover. This is the first printing of the Silver Library edition of Churchill's first book. The Story of the Malakand Field Force recounts Churchill's experiences while attached to Sir Bindon Blood's punitive expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897. Publication of the first edition of 1898 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. In part because of the errors in the first edition which so vexed Churchill, the publisher also issued a second edition less than a year after the first in January 1899. This Silver Library edition was the first to incorporate the author's corrections in the text, making this an important and highly collectable edition.
Unfortunately, the maroon boards proved highly susceptible to fading and wear, the paper easily browned and became brittle, and the binding often cracked. This first Silver Library edition, first printing - one of just 1,440 copies – is in better than very good condition. The binding is clean and tight with sharp corners and only light shelf wear to extremities. Shelf presentation is quite good, the cloth showing only the slightest, uniform toning and a trivial forward lean. The contents are unusually bright for the edition, with the customary age-toning only apparent at the perimeter blank margins of the pages. Even the page edges are atypically clean. We find no previous ownership marks. A hint of spotting appears confined to the prelims. The distinctive swan and ship endpapers are intact, as are the frontispiece, tissue guard, and maps. We note minor creasing to the upper corners spanning the dedication through p.8 and some wrinkling of the frontispiece tissue guard.
When The Story of the Malakand Field Force 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. Dozens of books would follow this first over the next six decades, helping Churchill earn his livelihood, his place in history, and a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Reference: Cohen A1.3.a, Woods/ICS A1(ba.1), Langworth p.20. Item #006036