London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908. First edition. Paperback. This elusive prize is the visually striking and exceptionally rare wraps binding of the colonial issue of the first edition, only printing. Internally identical to the hardbound first edition, it is bound instead in tan card wrappers featuring the same color illustration on the front cover (in blue and black) as the hardcover first edition. Churchill’s bibliographer Ronald Cohen informs us that this softbound variant was produced for the colonial market and that only 903 copies were sold. As might be imagined, the survival rate is exceptionally low for a 1908 book in card wraps destined for the harsher climates of the British colonies. We have seen or heard of fewer than half a dozen examples of this particular issue, placing it among the rarest Churchill first editions.
This example is a substantially complete survivor, despite some age, wear, and defects endemic to the inherent fragility of the edition and the rigors of colonial provenance. 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. All illustrations and maps are present, as is the tissue cover at the frontispiece. Moreover, the contents are quite clean for a colonial issue, with only modest spotting, primarily confined to the first and final leaves and page edges, with slight intrusions into the blank inner margins. A single previous owner name is inked on the front free endpaper recto. Testifying to the colonial provenance, above and to the left we noted the small, semi-circular embossed device of “APOTHECARIES Co. Ltd. BOOKSELLERS COLOMBO, CEYLON”. What began as a “little chemists’ shop” in 1883 turned into the Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) equivalent of a great department store, covering an area of four floors and 15,000 square feet – which, of course, included books. The striking illustrated front cover was neatly detached at the hinge, but remains fairly clean with only modest wear to extremities. The front cover has been neatly reattached, cleanly mounted on a stub. The spine shows some expected cracking along the signatures and chipping at extremities, but shows no lean, with the title and author still entirely legible. The publisher’s name at the foot of the spine is partly obscured by chip losses. The rear cover, firmly attached, is moderately toned and soiled with wear to the corners.
My African Journey is 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. 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 The 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.
This colonial, wraps issue of the first edition, is perhaps the most compelling and elusive issue of the British first edition and certainly among the rarest first edition issues in the Churchill canon.
Reference: Cohen A27.3, Woods/ICS A12(aa), Langworth p.81. Item #006467