London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This is the British first edition, first printing of Churchill's fifth published book in a magnificent fine binding. Ian Hamilton's March was the second of Churchill's two books based on his newspaper despatches sent from the front in South Africa during the Boer War.
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 no reportable wear. Any 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 contents are well-suited to the binding – uncommonly clean and bright. The frontispiece, tissue guard, and maps are all intact, including the folding map following the text, which is properly folded. Curiously, this copy lacks only the half-title, which of course presents no substantive loss. We find almost no spotting, noting only a few trivial incidences confined to the prelims, the fore edges, and on the folding map. We find no previous ownership marks. The contents are bound with the original publisher’s catalogue dated “7/00”.
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 escape less than a month later rendered him a celebrity and helped launch his political career.
Churchill's first book of Boer War despatches, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, was published in England in mid-May 1900. Ian Hamilton's March completes Churchill's coverage of the Boer War, publishing 17 letters to the Morning Post, spanning 31 March through 14 June 1900. The narrative in Ian Hamilton's March includes the liberation of the Pretoria prison camp where Churchill had been held.
While London to Ladysmith via Pretoria had swiftly published Churchill's dispatches in the wake of his capture and escape, for Ian Hamilton's March "the texts of the originally published letters were more extensively revised and four letters were included which had never appeared in periodical form" (Cohen, A8.1.a, Vol. I, p.105). Churchill effected these revisions en route back to England on board the passenger and cargo steamer Dunottar Castle. Arriving in July 1900, Churchill spent the summer campaigning hard in Oldham, where he won his first seat in Parliament on 1 October 1900 in the so-called "khaki election". The British first edition of Ian Hamilton's March was published just a few weeks later.
Reference: Cohen A8.1.a, Woods/ICS A5(a), Langworth p.59. Item #006361