Item #007842 The River War. Winston S. Churchill.
The River War
The River War
The River War
The River War

The River War

London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902. Hardcover. This is the first one-volume edition of Churchill's second book, The River War, originally published as a two-volume edition in 1899. In 1902 Churchill (by then a new member of Parliament) revised and abridged his text, adding a new Preface and excising much of the criticism of Kitchener for political reasons. For the next 120 years, every one of the many subsequent editions of The River War was based on this 1902 text. This first one-volume edition had only a single printing of 1,003 copies and is considerably scarcer than the first edition. This edition has the same distinctive gilt decoration of the Mahdi's Tomb and gunboat as the first edition, but is bound in red cloth.

Condition is very good. The red cloth binding is quite presentable and sound – square, clean, and tight with sharp corners. The spine shows mild toning, the binding overall with minor scuffs and blemishes, a bit of mottling to the front cover fore and bottom edges. The contents retain a crisp feel, modestly age-toned, with light spotting, primarily confined to the prelims and page edges. All maps and plans are present and complete, as are the original frontispiece and tissue guard, and the original black endpapers.

This is a bibliographically interesting copy. The 1,003 sets of sheets were bound and sold over time. Churchill’s bibliographer, Ronald Cohen, Vol. I, A2.2, p.46) notes "Sales were gradual" and "by 1 June 1908... 407 copies remained on hand" of which 350 were as-yet unbound sheets. In our experience, three features distinguish earlier-bound copies. First is darker red cloth rather than lighter. Second is black endpapers (like those of the first edition) instead of white. Third is presence of the publisher's catalogue. In our experience, darker cloth has corresponded to black endpapers and a bound-in publisher's catalogue. This copy - featuring darker red cloth, black endpapers, but lacking the publisher’s catalogue, presents a curious mix of binding attributes.

In 1883, Mahdist forces of messianic leader Mohammed Ahmed forced British withdrawal from the Sudan. In 1885, General Gordon famously lost his life in a doomed defense of Khartoum, where he had been sent to lead evacuation of British-led Egyptian forces. Though the Mahdi died that same year, his theocracy continued until 1898, when General Kitchener reoccupied the Sudan. With Kitchener was a young Winston Churchill, who participated in decisive defeat of the Mahdist forces and the last "genuine" cavalry charge of the British army during the battle of Omdurman in September 1898.

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.

Reference: Cohen A2.2, Woods/ICS A2(b), Langworth p.30. Item #007842

Price: $1,650.00

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