London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908. First edition, only printing. Hardcover. This is the British first edition, only printing of My African Journey, Churchill's travelogue on Britain's possessions in East Africa, written while he was serving as Undersecretary of State for the Colonies. The first edition is striking, with a vivid red binding and a prominent front cover bearing a woodcut illustration in blue, grey, and black of Churchill with his bagged white rhinoceros. This book is notable, among other things, for being the only one of his many books to contain photographs apparently taken by the author.
The red cloth spine proved exceptionally vulnerable to sunning and the lovely books seem to have attracted handling, making wear and soiling the norm. Spotting is also endemic. Bright and clean copies are increasingly elusive.
This copy approaches very good condition. The binding remains tight with only a very slight forward lean. The illustrated front cover – the hallmark of the edition – is bright, with only minor blemishes and scuffing and softened corners. The blank rear cover is likewise bright with only light shelf wear to extremities. Shelf presentation is respectable, the spine only moderately toned, the gilt print still bright, some wear and a touch of fraying confined to the spine ends.
The contents are complete and we find no previous ownership marks. The 61 photographs of this edition were tipped in rather than bound, so copies should always be carefully checked to ensure the presence of all illustrations and maps. All plates and maps are present in this copy, including the frontispiece and tissue cover. The chief detractions are customary spotting, intermittent within but nonetheless modest for the edition, and transfer browning of the endpapers from the pastedown glue. The top edge is dust soiled.
In the summer of 1907 Churchill left England for five months, making his way after working stops in southern Europe to Africa for "a tour of the east African domains." Churchill enjoyed a proper 19th Century bwana experience, traveling by special train provided by the Uganda Railway, receiving tribute from various chiefs, and shooting all manner of things. On 6 November Churchill wrote to his mother that at Simba "the first day I killed I Zebra, I wildebeeste, two hartebeeste, I gazelle, I bustard (a giant bird)." On the third day Churchill would kill a rhinoceros, the basis of the striking illustration on the front cover of the British first edition of his eventual book. Happily, there are more insightful and enduringly interesting experiences recounted in the book than just a catalogue of culled fauna.
From Aden and then to Mombassa, Churchill traveled up-country. Churchill's trip included stops at Nairobi, Lake Victoria, Kampala, the Ripon Falls, Gondokoro, and, after a journey by both train and steamer, Khartoum, followed by Wadi Halfa, Aswan, Cairo, and thence home.
By now a seasoned and financially shrewd author, Churchill arranged to profit doubly from the trip, first by serializing articles and then by publishing a book based substantially upon them. Nine articles on his African journey were published in Strand Magazine from March to November 1908. In November 1908 Hodder and Stoughton published My African Journey as a book. While Churchill's Strand articles make up the bulk of the book, the last two chapters plus an additional paragraph in Chapter X did not appear in Strand and the book is a substantial 10,000 words longer than the serialized articles.
Reference: Cohen A27.1, Woods/ICS A12(aa), Langworth p.81. Item #007687