About the Book
With Roberts to the Transvaal is a companion volume to A Pictorial History of South Africa and the Transvaal. Published in 1900, it was edited by Commander Chas N. Robinson who was, at the time, also the editor of Navy and Army Illustrated (a periodical published between 1895 and 1903). The publisher Geo. Newnes Limited, published all three of the aforementioned.
The Lord Roberts (1832-1914) referred to in the title was Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, KStJ, VD, PC, FRSGS. Born in India in 1832, Lord Roberts served in the East India Company Army and the British Army from 1851 to 1904. His was a highly distinguished military career during which he saw service in India, Abyssinia, Afghanistan, Ireland and South Africa. It is his service in this latter region which is important in the context of this book. He was sent to South Africa in 1899 to command the British forces who had suffered recent defeats in the Second Boer War. His leadership was dynamic and the British Army ultimately overcame the Boers. On May 31st 1900, Lord Roberts took control of the Transvaal capital, Pretoria - this was after this book had gone to press.
Although further decorated for his efforts in South Africa, Roberts made a huge mistake during the campaign which cost more British lives than were lost in battle. He attempted to make logistical changes, modelling the British units in South Africa on the Indian Army. However, this caused huge logistical problems and shortages of essential supplies, which led to an outbreak of typhoid amongst the British troops.
With Roberts to the Transvaal is a fascinating book which is extensively illustrated with black and white photographs and maps. The photographs alone give you a real feel for the conditions during the Second Boer War. Detailed text comes from several contributors and commentators of the time and give a further insight, not just to the war, but to the politics surrounding it.
This book is a great read for those interested in South African history and the Second Boer War in particular. It was published soon after Lord Roberts led his troops into Bloemfontein on March 13th 1900, and the words and photographs are from witnesses rather than historians looking back on past times.
There is no formal outline of contents within the book as such, but I'll make my list as concise as possible:
- Preliminary adverts over two pages for Navy and Army Illustrated and A Pictorial History of the Transvaal and South Africa, 1670-1899
- A frontispiece of Lord Roberts, Field-Marshal and Commander in Chief in South Africa, in full uniform
- Extensive list of nearly two hundred illustrations
- A Calendar of Dates from October 9th 1899 to March 13th 1900 - This is an extensive list of dates and events during the Second Boer War
- The book is thereafter separated into three sections:
- The Making of War by Captain Owen Wheeler
- Looking Ahead
- The Beat of the War Drum
- Transport Overseas
- The Empire Springs to War
- Auxiliary Aid
- To the Front
- The Campaign In Natal by John Leyland
- The First Battles of the War
- Natal Raided by the Boers
- The Fighting On the Tugela
- The Relief of Ladysmith
- In the Cape Colony by David Hannay
- The Preliminaries
- The First Advance
- The Halt, And Magersfontein
- The Stromberg Reverse and Minor Operations
- Lord Roberts and His Preparations
- The Relief of Kimberley, And the Beating In of the Boer Defences
- The Advance to Bloemfontein
- The Making of War by Captain Owen Wheeler
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About the Photographs:
There are nearly two hundred black and white photographs printed in this book. Images are clear, the original photographs well taken, and they appear on most pages within the text. The photographers include:
- Miell and Ridley
- Navy and Army
- Elliott and Fry
- Kapp and Co
- C. Notman
- American Photo Company
- Underwood and Underwood
- Laws Cancy
- H.W. Nicholls
- Window and Grove
- H. & E. Stiles
- Stereoscopic Company
- Miss F. S. Ramsay
- Hughes and Mullins
- And many others referred to by a single name or terms such as "A Military Officer"
About the Publisher:
Geo. Newnes Ltd, also referred to as George Newnes Ltd, was so named after its founder Sir George Newnes ((1851-1910) 1st Baronet). He was a London based publisher of many notable Victorian periodicals, such as The Strand, Tit-Bits, Wide World and the Westminster Gazette.
George Newnes, the man, was also a leading Liberal politician in Great Britain. He served as a Member of Parliament for Newmarket for ten years (1885-1895) and for Swansea, also for ten years (1900-1910).
His publishing company was formed in 1891, bringing separate ventures under one umbrella and, following restructuring in 1896 and 1897, it began publishing books. Best known was perhaps The Penny Library of Famous Books (began in 1896), but along with another influential London publisher of the time, Odhams Press, Newnes was to build up a strong catalogue of non-fiction books, along with an expanding range of periodicals.
From around 1914 another publisher, C. Arthur Pearson Ltd (founded by Sir Arthur Pearson, 1st Baronet (1866-1921)) effectively became an imprint for George Newnes Ltd, although this was not formalised until the 1920s. Pearson had worked for George Newnes before setting up as a publisher in his own right in 1890. He was best known for publishing Pearson's Magazine and, among others, The Daily Express (from 1900-1916).
Moving on in time, Odhams bought out George Newnes Ltd (including the Pearson imprint) in 1959 before subsequently becoming part of the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) some two years later. Although the company effectively ceased to exist from then on, there is still a Newnes imprint used today by the Dutch publisher Elsvier.
About the Editor:
Commander Chas N. Robinson (1849-1936) (aka Charles Napier Robinson) retired from the Royal Navy in 1882, after twenty years service and having reached the rank of Commander. He then embarked on a career in journalism, writing and editing. He specialised in matters relating to the Royal Navy:
- In 1894 he wrote The British Fleet, the Growth, Achievements and Duties of the Navy of the Empire
- From 1895-1903 he edited the Navy and Army Illustrated
- For over four decades he was the Navy correspondent for The Times newspaper
- In 1899 he edited A Pictorial History of South Africa and The Transvaal and a year later With Roberts to the Transvaal
- In 1900 he edited Celbrities of the Army
- In the same year he also edited China of Today, Or the Yellow Peril
- He wrote the Introduction to the 1901 book Naval Brigades In the South African War 1899-1900
- In 1909 he wrote The British Tar in Fact and Fiction: The Poetry, Pathos, and Humour of the Sailor's Life
- In 1911 he wrote the Introduction for Naval Battles From the Collection of Prints Formed and Owned by Commander Sir Charles Leopold Cust
- In 1929 he edited the Naval and Shipping Annual and from 1930-1935 he was the publication's joint editor
- In 1936 he edited Brassey's Naval Annual
- Title: With Roberts to the Transvaal
- Authors: Captain Owen Wheeler, John Leyland and David Hannay
- Editor: Commander Chas N. Robinson
- Published by Geo. Newnes Ltd, undated 1st edition, 1900
- Format: A mid size book with hard cover binding, tan cloth with black and gilt decoration
- Pages: 128, detailed descriptive text, almost 200 black and white photos, several line drawn maps
- Size Approx: 173x249mm
- Approx weight: 539g
Estimated Book Value:
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With Roberts to the Transvaal, edited by Commander Chas N. Robinson, estimated value of the pictured copy, a first edition, which is in very good condition, no dust jacket (as issued), £30
Estimated value of the same book in fine condition, £40