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 notably better than most. The binding remains square and tight, with sharp corners and only light shelf wear, primarily confined to spine end wrinkling. The tan cloth shows only light overall soiling. Spine toning is quite light and shelf presentation is compelling for the edition, the tan color strong and both the gilt and red subtitle bright. The contents are bright for the edition and retain a crisp, unread feel. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting is quite light, within only incidental and confined to the prelims, appreciable only to the text block 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 and properly folded. The rear catalogue is dated “10/99” (rather than “’7/00”), indicating this is one of the earlier bound copies.
The book is housed in a handsome quarter Morocco goatskin Solander case, hued complementary to the original binding. The spine features raised bands framed by blind rules, title and author printed compartments with gilt rules, and gilt devices in the unprinted departments. A blind rule transition demarcates the border with the khaki cloth-covered boards. The interior is felt-lined. Condition of the case is very good plus, shelf presentation excellent, the cloth boards showing minor shelf scuffs and an unobtrusive dent to the lower rear board.
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 #006836