London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is a collector-worthy first edition, first printing of Churchill's fourth published book. 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 British first edition is striking, bound in tan cloth with an illustration of an armoured train on the front cover accompanied by the author's facsimile signature and with the Union flag and Transvaal flag in gilt on the spine beneath a red subtitle. The binding is visually arresting, but the first edition proved notoriously fragile and prone to wear, soiling, and spotting. Truly fine copies are virtually a chimera.
This first edition, first printing is a bit better than very good – certainly not fine but nonetheless compellingly respectable. The binding remains square and tight, with sharp corners and only light shelf wear primarily confined to spine ends and corners and a small scuff affecting the “D” in “LADYSMITH” on the upper front cover. The tan cloth shows only light overall soiling, with no appreciable spine toning. Shelf presentation is quite good; despite a faint vertical crease and a tiny dark mark on the rear hinge adjacent to the author’s name, the tan color is strong and both the gilt and red subtitle remain bright. The contents retain a crisp feel, mildly toned but with spotting modest for the edition, primarily confined to the first few leaves and the page edges. The original black endpapers are intact with no sign of cracking at the gutters. All maps and plans are present, with the folding maps at the title page and p.366 fully intact. The sole previous ownership mark is the name and date “Lydia Osbourne 1900” inked on the front free endpaper verso.
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. In October 1899, the second Boer War erupted between the descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa and the British. Churchill, an itinerant, 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 #006415