Home » Browse » Asia » (RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR.) - Official History (Naval and Military) of the Russo-Japanese War.
return to previous page


Official History (Naval and Military) of the Russo-Japanese War.

Published: London: HMSO, 1910–20

Stock code: 97489

Price: £6,750

Free Shipping Worldwide.

This item is on show at 43 Dover Street (map)

First and only editions, extraordinarily uncommon. Because of the varying print runs (2,000 copies of volume I, 1,000 of II, and 1,500 of III and its appendix), only 1,000 sets could ever complete. There was an eight year hiatus between the publication of the second volume and completion: a slip tipped in at the title page of volume III explains that “the preparation of this volume was completed in 1914, but publication has been unavoidably delayed owing to the late war”, meaning that many private purchasers of the series were no longer alive to obtain the last part, casualties of either natural causes or conflict. The majority of sets would have been institutionalized and therefore suffered a slow demise through rough handling, the weight of the volumes and the construction of the map-cases being a major contributory factor to overall physical deterioration, and the quantity of loose maps militating against the maintenance of completeness. Copac seems to show 10 sets, perhaps 11 including the BL which does not note the map-cases separately, rather listing “two portfolios of maps”, but SOAS has two volumes only, as also Durham, times two, and perhaps also NMM. No complete sets noted at auction. But this work is not merely an attractive and exotic rarity. “As record of what actually happened, this is probably the best account of the Russo-Japanese War produced by any general staff in Europe. Reports of the British observers and the official accounts of Austria, Germany, the United States, Russia and Japan were all consulted; Russian authorities provided much useful information, and the proofs were ‘very carefully revised’ by Japanese military officers in Tokyo” (Higham). This history was a significant departure from the conventional campaign histories that had preceded it, being perhaps the “first of its kind to treat war as an integrated whole rather than a composite of independent military and naval operations”. This radical new treatment of the facts of war was perhaps a result of there being no official historian as such, the work being a “synthesis constructed by a talented team … all the members of which pulled their weight. The Official History was a terrific task which was only rendered possible by good team work”. The name most usually associated with this publication is Sir Ernest Swinton, best remembered as one of the progenitors of the tank, but among his associates were, F. E. Whitton who was to become an accomplished and popular historian and biographer; Archibald Wavell, soldier, scholar, and viceroy of India, compiler of Other Men’s Flowers, a “widely popular anthology … consisting entirely of pieces of poetry which he had by heart” and author of ” ‘Generals and generalship’, one of the best statements on military command ever written: which Rommel carried with him in the north African campaign”; and Guy Dawnay, “army officer and merchant banker”, Allenby’s deputy chief of general staff in Egypt, described by T. E. Lawrence as “the least professional of soldiers, a banker who read Greek history; a strategist unashamed, and a burning poet with strength over daily things” (ODNB). The result of their collaboration was “a work of exceptionally high quality” (Higham), and when offered complete, as here, highly desirable. Only the second such set encountered by this cataloguer.

3 volumes large octavo, together with 3 book-style map-cases, original mid-blue cloth, title gilt to spines, Appendices to volume III in original buff card wraps, housed in the map-case as issued. Volume I with frontispiece and 3 other plates, 10 maps and plans, all but one folding, 3 folding panoramas, and a folding order of battle, numerous tables to the text; 25 folding maps and plans in the accompanying map-case: volume II with frontispiece and 11 other plates, 5 fortification plans, all but one folding, 9 folding panoramas, 7 folding orders of battle and statistical tables, numerous tables to the text, errata slip bound in at the tile page; 30 maps and plans, one of waxed linen, in the map-case: volume III, frontispiece and 6 other plates, one full-page plan and 7 folding panoramas; map-case with 39 folding maps and plans: large folding order of battle to the appendix volume. Ex-Belfast Reference Library, their small and tidy ink-stamps throughout, cloth slightly worn and faded, the whole set now professionally cleaned and restored, presenting reasonably well, and entirely sound, contents lightly browned, light foxing to the liners of the map-cases, some of the maps a little finger-soiled, but overall certainly very good.

Bibliography: Higham p.492

Don't understand our descriptions? Try reading our Glossary