London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908. First edition, only printing. Full leather. This is a finely bound first edition, only printing of My African Journey, 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.
We commissioned this binding in full crimson Morocco goatskin, the hue deferential to the publisher’s original cloth. The binding features hubbed spine, the raised spine bands decorated and framed with gilt bands, the twin brown title and author labels likewise decorated and ruled. The beveled edge boards are framed in gilt and gilt-tooled turn-ins frame handsome marbled endpapers. The contents are bound with silk head and tail bands and gilt top edge.
The publisher’s original vivid red cloth spine proved exceptionally vulnerable to sunning and the lovely books seem to have attracted handling, making wear and soiling the norm. Moreover, the contents of the first edition are often incomplete; the 61 photographs of this edition were tipped in rather than bound, and plates often go missing.
Condition of this binding is perfect. Condition of the contents is well-suited to the binding, as this is a complete copy, with all illustrations and maps present, as is the tissue cover at the frontispiece. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting is moderate for the edition, light and intermittent within, unobtrusive on the otherwise clean, untrimmed fore and bottom edges.
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." Churchill enjoyed a proper 19th Century bwana experience, traveling by special train provided by the Uganda Railway, receiving tribute from various chiefs, and shooting all manner of things. On 6 November Churchill wrote to his mother that at Simba "the first day I killed I Zebra, I wildebeeste, two hartebeeste, I gazelle, I bustard (a giant bird)." On the third day Churchill would kill a rhinoceros – the basis of the frontispiece photograph of this British first edition. Happily, there are more insightful and enduringly interesting experiences recounted in the book than just a catalogue of culled fauna.
From Aden and then to Mombassa, Churchill traveled up-country. Churchill's trip included stops at Nairobi, Lake Victoria, Kampala, the Ripon Falls, Gondokoro, and, after a journey by both train and steamer, Khartoum, followed by Wadi Halfa, Aswan, Cairo, and thence home.
By now a seasoned and financially shrewd author, Churchill arranged to profit doubly from the trip, first by serializing articles and then by publishing a book based substantially upon them. Nine articles on his African journey were published in Strand Magazine from March to November 1908. In November 1908 Hodder and Stoughton published My African Journey as a book. While Churchill's Strand articles make up the bulk of the book, the last two chapters plus an additional paragraph in Chapter X did not appear in Strand and the book is a substantial 10,000 words longer than the serialized articles.
Reference: Cohen A27.1, Woods/ICS A12(aa), Langworth p.81. Item #006282