Item #007429 The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan. Winston S. Churchill.
The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan
The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan
The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan
The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan

The River War, An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan

London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1899. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing, of Churchill's second published work, the lengthiest from his time as an itinerant cavalry officer and war correspondent during the waning days of Queen Victoria’s reign.

This first edition is not only compellingly written, but also physically beautiful. The two large, lavish volumes are decorated with gilt representations of the Mahdi's tomb on the spines and a gunboat on the front covers. Each volume is printed on heavy paper with a profusion of illustrations, maps, and plans. They are also scarce; there were 2,000 copies of this first edition, first printing. Moreover, this is one of the few Churchill books for which there was no concurrent U.S. first edition.

This first edition, first printing is an unrestored, intact set in the striking, original bindings. Condition is very good plus. The original bindings are often both significantly worn and broken loose from their massive text blocks. In this case, the bindings are not only unusually bright and clean, but also still firmly anchored to the text blocks. The gilt is bright, including the striking illustrations of gunboats and the Mahdi’s tomb on the front covers and spines. Of note, we find no discernible color shift between the covers and spines. Wear is modest, including a little shelf wear to extremities, including the spine ends, and a few trivial scuffs and blemishes to the cover. Shelf presentation is quite good for the edition.

The contents are likewise quite good for the edition. The original black endpapers are present, as are all of the extensive maps and plans, as well as the frontispiece portraits and tissue guards. The contents are not only unusually tight, but the black endpapers show no hint of even cosmetic splits at the gutters. We find no previous ownership marks. Spotting, the only appreciable defect, is intermittent throughout, generally light within the text, appreciable only at the endpapers.

Volume I of first edition, first printing sets often contains a publisher's catalogue bound in at the rear. Churchill’s bibliographer, Ron Cohen, speculates that copies lacking the catalogue were likely "destined for sale in either the American or other overseas markets." This set was originally bound without the catalogue at the rear of Volume I.

The Mahdi, Mohammed Ahmed, was a messianic Islamic leader in central and northern Sudan in the final decades of the 19th century. In 1885, General Gordon famously lost his life in a doomed defense of the capitol, Khartoum. Though the Mahdi died that same year, his theocracy continued until 1898, when General Kitchener reoccupied the Sudan. With Kitchener – to his vexation – was a very young Winston Churchill, who participated in “the last great British cavalry charge” during the battle of Omdurman in September 1898, where the Mahdist forces were decisively defeated. Writing about the British campaign in the Sudan, Churchill - a young officer in a colonial British army - is unusually sympathetic to the Mahdist forces and critical of Imperial cynicism and cruelty. This work offers us the candid perspective of the future 20th century icon from the distinctly 19th century battlefields where Churchill learned to write and earned his early fame. The text is arresting, insightful, powerfully descriptive, and of enduring relevance.

Reference: Cohen A2.1.b, Woods/ICS A2(a.1), Langworth p.29. Item #007429

Price: $6,000.00

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