London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1900. First edition, first printing. Hardcover. This is the first edition, first printing of Churchill's fourth published book. London to Ladysmith via Pretoria is the first of Churchill's two books based on his newspaper despatches sent from the front in South Africa. The British first edition is striking, bound in tan cloth with an illustration of an armoured train on the front cover accompanied by the author's facsimile signature and with the Union flag and Transvaal flag in gilt on the spine beneath a red subtitle. The binding is visually arresting, but the first edition proved notoriously fragile and prone to wear, soiling, and spotting. Truly fine copies are virtually a chimera.
This first edition, first printing is in good plus condition, original, complete, sound, unrestored with notably clean contents. The binding remains square and tight, the illustrated front cover quite presentable, the gilt and red subtitle print still clearly legible on the only lightly toned spine. We note general wear to extremities, modest overall soiling, some small stains to the blank rear cover, and some fraying along the joints. Shelf presentation is quite decent for the edition. The contents are not only bright, but retain a crisp feel, with minimal spotting confined to the prelims and page edges. The original black endpapers are intact with no sign of cracking at the gutters. All maps and plans are present, with the folding maps at the title page and p.366 fully intact. The contents are bound with the early issue of the original publisher’s catalogue dated “10/99”. The sole previous ownership mark is contemporary, five weeks after publication: a brief gift inscription and date of “June 23 1900” inked on the upper recto of the blank preceding the half title.
London to Ladysmith via Pretoria is the first of Churchill's two books based on his newspaper despatches sent from the front in South Africa. In October 1899, the second Boer War erupted between the descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa and the British. Churchill, an itinerant, adventure-seeking young cavalry officer and war correspondent, swiftly found himself in South Africa with the 21st Lancers and an assignment as press correspondent to the Morning Post. Not long thereafter, on 15 November 1899, Churchill was captured during a Boer ambush of an armored train. His daring and dramatic escape less than a month later made him a celebrity and helped launch his political career.
London to Ladysmith via Pretoria contains 27 letters and telegrams to the Morning Post written between 26 October 1899 and 10 March 1900. It was published in England in mid-May 1900 and sold well. Churchill returned from South Africa in July 1900 and spent the summer campaigning hard in Oldham. Churchill had lost the Oldham by-election – his first attempt at Parliament – in July 1899. Since then, as Arthur Balfour (who became Prime Minister in 1902) put it in a 30 August 1900 letter, the young Churchill had had “fresh opportunities - admirably taken advantage of – for shewing the public of what stuff you are made.” Indeed; Churchill won his first seat in Parliament on 1 October 1900 in the so-called "khaki election".
Reference: Cohen A4.1.a, Woods/ICS A4(a.1), Langworth p.53. Item #007749