CHURCHILL'S RISE TO GREATNESS THIS WEEK'S LIVEAUCTIONTALK.COM
Book; Winston Churchill’s first, “Malakand Field Force” presumed first issue text; inscribed; sold for $9,600. Photo courtesy of PBA Galleries.
With his red hair, pink skin and egg-shaped face, 22-year-old Winston Churchill was hard to miss--even as a young warrior. As a cavalry lieutenant in the Fourth Hussars he was settling into a comfortable life in the mountain city of Bangalore, India.
It was 1896 and India was still a part of British rule. Many army units were stationed in India helping to maintain peace and protect government officers and British businesses.
Winston and two of his fellow officers were living the good life in a huge bungalow with servants. He grew roses, played polo and collected butterflies. Winston also studied history, economics and philosophy in his spare time with books he begged his mother to send. He asked her to mail big, important books and read everything of value he could find.
“A university of one,” he called it.
Winston was already looking toward the future and a career in politics. He understood the best way to get attention was to be at the center of military action and then write about it, not playing polo in some political wasteland.
He wanted to be posted, as he said, “to scenes of adventure and excitement—to places where I could gain experience and derive advantage.” Even then he knew someday he would give up the army for politics.
He wasn’t shy about getting himself to the center of action either. The following year Winston was on vacation in England and got wind of a military plan to punish rebel tribesmen near the northwest border of India.
The expedition leader, Sir Bindon Blood, a friend of the family, had promised Winston in the past he could be a part of his next mission. Blood was a colorful character, a descendant of the Colonel Blood who attempted to steal the Crown Jewels.
That was Winston’s opening. He rushed back to India, requested a leave of absence from his regiment and was turned down. The regiment commander ultimately agreed to let Winston go not as a soldier but as a war correspondent.
The rebels were no match for British forces and were quickly defeated. Winston took detailed notes of each battle and learned more than he probably wanted to about guerrilla warfare. Out of the experience came his first book the “Malakand Field Force.”
It was an insightful, exciting account of the British victory. The book put Winston on the map politically. He was delighted to get an invitation to meet Lord Salisbury, the British prime minister. The prime minister offered to help him with his career.
Winston also sent a copy of his text to the Prince of Wales. The prince wrote back with a thank you and much praise. Sir Bindon was also pleased with Winston’s account and spoke favorably about him to his superiors. Winston was on his way.
On July 22, PBA Galleries, San Francisco, featured Winston’s first book, “Malakand Field Force” on the block in its book sale. The presumed first issue text inscribed from the author to Algernon Well, sold for $9,600.
Here are current values for other important texts and ephemera sold in the auction.
Rare Books and Ephemera
John Quincy Adams; autographed letter signed; to William R, Prince; 21 lines in ink; July 15, 1828; $3,000.
Book; James O. Pattie; first published account of overland journey to California; second edition; 300 pages; 5 full-page engraved plates; 1833; $3,600.
Book; Winston Churchill; “The People’s Rights” first state; 152 pages; 1910; $4,800.
Herman Melville; autographed letter signed; to L. Bradford Prince; 15 lines in ink; dated Sept 21 with no year given; $10,800.
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