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 in a magnificent fine binding. 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 elegant, orange-brown, beautifully grained, full Niger Morocco goatskin binding features hubbed spines with blind-rule framed bands, gilt rules at the spine head and tail, subtly radiused corners, and Churchill's ancestral Marlborough arms in gilt on the front cover. The contents are bound with gilt top edges and double gilt-ruled turn-ins framing striking marbled endpapers. Even the gold and red silk head and foot bands are executed with manifest skill. This compellingly handsome example of the fine binder’s craft is a reminder to collectors that not all fine bindings are created equal.
Gilt print on the lower front pastedown turn-in attributes this binding to “HENRY SOTHERAN, LTD.” Founded in York in 1761 and established in London in 1815, Sotheran’s is one of the world’s oldest bookshops. This fine binding commissioned by Sotheran’s deliberately and closely emulated the fine bindings of the signed and limited first edition of Marlborough: His Life and Times (Churchill, 1933-1938, bound by Leighton-Straker). The binding of this volume and the publisher’s original Marlborough fine bindings look closely akin when shelved together.
This book comes from the collection of British army veteran and noted Churchillian Major Alan Taylor-Smith (1928-2019) of Westerham, Kent, proximate to Churchill’s beloved country home, Chartwell.
Condition approaches fine. The binding shows little observable wear, the only trivial incidence noted being a tiny, superficial abrasion at the lower rear hinge. Minor blemishes appear inherent to the skin and mild toning of the leather lends aesthetic character to both shelf presentation and the binding overall. The British first edition, first printing contents are well-suited to the binding – uncommonly clean and bright. Spotting, endemic to the edition, is trivial and appears confined to the fore and bottom edges. The contents are bound with the early issue of the original publisher’s catalogue dated “10/99”. All maps and plans are present, with the folding maps at the title page and p.366 fully intact and properly folded. The sole previous ownership mark is an inked name, town, and date of “1900” faded to the point of near illegibility at the upper right corner of the title page.
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 #006360