London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1898. First edition, Colonial Library issue, first printing. Hardcover. This is the scarce first edition, first printing of the “Colonial Library” issue of Churchill's first book, a worn but original and complete copy. The author's first book recounts his experiences when attached to Sir Bindon Blood's punitive expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897 and is the first book-length product of his early career as an itinerant cavalry officer and war correspondent.
First printing copies of the Colonial issue were produced in small numbers simultaneously with the Home Issue. The harsher climate and condition of the colonies meant low survival rates and often poor condition for those few examples that survived. Complicating matters for collectors, there were no fewer than 10 different editions, printings, and binding variations for the very small number of Colonial issues ultimately produced from 1898 to 1901. This first printing of the colonial issue of Churchill’s first published book is noteworthy for being the only of the many books published in Churchill’s lifetime with the “L.” for “Leonard” appearing on both the binding (spine and lower front cover) and the title page.
This is an original, unrestored copy. Condition is good overall. The illustrated cloth binding is tight, and the spine gilt still bright and distinct, as is the elaborate illustrated front cover. Nonetheless, there are no few signs of age and the vicissitudes of colonial origin, the cloth variously blistered, the spine ends and corner a little frayed, a red stain at the upper rear cover corner. The contents are surprisingly clean and complete, with no spotting. However, the frontispiece is loose and consequently chipped and wrinkled at the edges. There are three inked previous owner names, two on the front pastedown, one of which is partially erased and abraded, the other dated “1941”. A third name inked on the front free endpaper recto is neatly crossed out in pencil and dated “1960”. The lower corner of the blank final free endpaper is missing and the remnant of what might have been a small card pocket with no identifying information is affixed to the rear pastedown. We find no other ex-library marks or indications.
The Story of the Malakand Field Force recounts Churchill’s experiences while attached to Sir Bindon Blood's punitive expedition on the Northwest Frontier of India in 1897. This book was written and published while Churchill was a young cavalry officer still serving in India. He had successfully applied his pen as a war correspondent - indeed the book is based on his dispatches to the Daily Telegraph and the Pioneer Mail – but this was his first book-length work.
Churchill was motivated by a combination of pique and ambition. He was vexed that his Daily Telegraph columns were to be published unsigned. On 25 October 1897 Churchill wrote to his mother: "...I had written them with the design... of bringing my personality before the electorate." Two weeks later, his resolve to write a book firming, Churchill again wrote to his mother: "...It is a great undertaking but if carried out will yield substantial results in every way, financially, politically, and even, though do I care a damn, militarily." Having invested his ambition in his first book, he clearly labored over it: "I have discovered a great power of application which I did not think I possessed. For two months I have worked not less than five hours a day."
The finished manuscript was sent to his mother on the last day of 1897 and this first printing of the first Colonial issue was published on 14 March of 1898. Dozens of books followed this first over the next six decades, helping Churchill earn his livelihood, his place in history, and, more than half a century after this first book was published, a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Reference: Cohen A1.2.a, Woods/ICS A1(ab.1), Langworth p.15. Item #006991