London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Full leather. This is the British first edition of Churchill's third published book and only novel in a magnificent fine binding commissioned by one of the world’s oldest bookshops. The elegant, red, Morocco goatskin binding features a hubbed spine with blind-ruled compartments, gilt-decorated bands, and gilt lion rampant in each unprinted compartment. The covers feature gilt rule borders, the front cover stamped with Churchill’s facsimile signature in gilt. The cover edges are gilt tooled and the spine ends gilt hatched. The contents are bound with all edges gilt, red and white silk head and tail bands, and striking marbled endpapers framed by generous gilt ruled and tooled turn-ins. 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. Condition approaches near fine. The bright and clean binding shows only a few negligible scuffs and indentations. The British first edition, first printing contents are well-suited to the binding – uncommonly clean and bright with only light, intermittent spotting and no previous ownership marks. The original publisher’s advertisement is retained following the text, offering the “Second Impression” of The River War and the “Seventh Thousand” of The Story of the Malakand Field Force.
A very young Churchill was exuberant about publication at the time. Even though Savrola was his third published book, it was actually the first book he undertook and the second he completed. His “Tale of the Revolution in Laurania” is a melodramatic tale of political intrigue in a fictional Mediterranean state. He would later make deprecating comments about his novel and it is perhaps instructive that he never wrote another. In his 1930 autobiography he wrote, "I have consistently urged my friends to abstain from reading it [Savrola]." However, his mixed feelings about his only novel did not keep Churchill from writing a foreword to a new edition in 1956: "The preface to the first edition in 1900 submitted the book 'with considerable trepidation to the judgment or the clemency of the public.' The intervening fifty-five years have somewhat dulled though certainly not changed my sentiments on this point."
It has been argued that, as a literary effort, Savrola gave “dramatic voice to Churchill’s mature philosophical reflections about his fundamental political and ethical principles at the very moment when he settled on them for the rest of his life.” (Powers, Finest Hour #74) Irrespective of Churchill's feelings about his book or the literary merit thereof, the novel certainly provides an interesting insight into the early political perspective and sentiment of the then very young Churchill.
Reference: Cohen A3.2.b, Woods/ICS A3(a.1), Langworth p.39. Item #006850