London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908. First edition, colonial issue. Hardcover. This is the scarce hardcover colonial issue of the British first edition of My African Journey. Churchill's travelogue on Britain's possessions in East Africa was 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. My African Journey offers collectors the only colonial issue of a work by Churchill written about colonial possessions while Churchill was actually serving in the Colonial Office.
The British first edition is striking, with a vivid red binding and a prominent front cover bearing a woodcut illustration in blue, grey, and black of Churchill with his bagged white rhinoceros. There was a scarce Colonial hardcover issue of the first edition. Per Churchill bibliographer Ronald I. Cohen (Cohen A27.2, Vol I, p.158): "the colonial issue in cloth covers is distinguished only by the presence of an asterisk, gilt, below the name of the publisher on the spine." While there were a total of 12,500 copies of the first edition printed, it is estimated that no more than 1,726 of these were such colonial copies. Given that the Colonial issue was destined for the harsh climates and conditions of the British colonies, comparatively few have survived and even fewer have survived in respectable condition.
The chief virtue of this copy lies in its survival and definitive colonial provenance, Condition is only fair; put more charitably, this copy wears its colonial travels and travails with well-weathered dignity. The red cloth binding is intact. The front cover illustration remains distinct but the entire fore edge, particularly below the illustration, shows moisture staining, as does the same portion of the rear cover. The spine is uniformly darkened with chip losses to the head and tail, as well as fraying of one inch (2.54 cm) at the lower front hinge and a .5 inch (1.27 cm) split at the center front hinge. The contents affirm colonial provenance; the oval ink stamp of the “TIMES OF INDIA LIBRARY BOMBAY” appears four times – on the front pastedown, on the blank upper portions of both p.v (Preface) and p.vii (Contents), and on the blank lower portion of p.xiii (the final Contents page). The contents are a bit shaken and toned, but nonetheless still definitively anchored to their binding. Spotting is surprisingly light, particularly for a colonial issue. The 61 photographs of this edition were tipped in rather than bound, so copies should always be carefully checked to ensure the presence of all illustrations and maps. The only absence appears to the the p.159 illustration leaf.
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." In early November, Churchill would kill a rhinoceros, the basis of the striking illustration on the front cover of the British first edition of his eventual book. By now a seasoned and financially shrewd author, Churchill arranged to profit doubly from the trip, first by serializing articles in Strand Magazine and then by publishing a book based substantially upon them. In November 1908 Hodder and Stoughton published My African Journey as a book, which was a substantial 10,000 words longer than the serialized articles.
Reference: Cohen A27.2, Woods/ICS A12(aa), Langworth p.82. Item #006456