Long Walk to Freedom, the South African first edition, inscribed and dated by Nelson Mandela
Johannesburg: MacDonald Purnell, 1994. First edition. Hardcover. This presentation copy of the South African first edition of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography was inscribed and dated by him during his presidency. Mandela began writing what would become Long Walk to Freedom clandestinely in prison in 1974. It was published in 1994, the same year that Mandela became President of South Africa. The five-line inscription on the half title reads: “To Barry Pecher, | Compliments | & | best wishes | Mandela | 28.3.95”. The date is exactly a year and a day after Mandela voted for the first time in his life - in the same election that made him leader of his nation.
Condition is very good in a very good dust jacket. The black cloth binding is square, tight, and clean with sharp corners bright spine gilt, and minor shelf wear to extremities. The contents are bright with a crisp feel. Light spotting appears confined to the rear endpaper and page edges, which also show light soiling. The upper right front free endpaper – a map of South Africa – shows abrasion, likely from erasure of a previous owner name or bookseller notation. On the half title, above the printed title, several lines of ink have had White-Out correction fluid applied, ostensibly to obscure an inked previous owner name or notation. The White-Out is above the printed title, while Mandela’s presentation inscription is below and entirely unaffected. The dust jacket, featuring portraits of Mandela on the front and rear faces and the South African flag on the spine, is bright and complete, though with light wear to extremities. The jacket is protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was born Rolihlahla Mandela in the tiny village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape. It was in primary school that he was given the “English” name Nelson. He managed to secure his bachelors degree only after first being expelled for joining a student protest. Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944, four years before Apartheid was adopted as a formal policy by the South African government after the 1948 general election victory of the National Party (NP).
Mandela helped form the ANC Youth League. Rising through the ranks, in 1952 he both co-founded South Africa’s first black law firm and began to accrue official charges by the government. As a result of government restrictions placed upon him, Mandela could not openly attend adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955. Neither Mandela nor the NP could know that the government’s persecution of Mandela would play a large role in the principles of the Freedom Charter being realized and in Mandela’s own political preeminence.
Mandela continued to accrue arrests, trials, and acquittals while the ANC was formally banned. By late 1961 Mandela had resorted to preparing for armed struggle, undertaking leadership of Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation. Facing the death penalty on trial for sabotage, in 1964 Mandela delivered his famous ‘On the Docks’ speech. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. Less than months after he spoke these resonating words, Mandela and co-conspirators were was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Apartheid applied even to imprisonment. Nelson’s sole white co-conspirator was sent to Pretoria Prison while Mandela and his black co-conspirators were sent to Robben Island.
The NP’s attempt to silence Mandela only increased his celebrity and legitimacy. Mandela was finally released in February 1990 by then-president of South Africa de Klerk. Mandela was integral to negotiations to end white minority rule; he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Item #007134