(Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 1997).
AN EXTRAORDINARY AND TRULY FINE BOOK PRODUCTION OFFERED IN ITS MOST HIGHLY LIMITED FORMAT. THE FIRST EDITION OF LAWRENCE'S 1922 TEXT EVER TO BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC. This hand-numbered set is not only presented in very special and fine goatskin bindings but contains many additions not included in the less limited copies.
T.E. Lawrence's original 1922 text was nearly a third longer than that which was issued in 1935 as the "Complete and Unabridged" text. Lawrence's official biographer, Jeremy Wilson, spearheaded this ambitious project at the Castle Hill Press in order to finally bring that text to the public. The text provided here is taken from Lawrence's manuscript copy in the Bodleian Library and T. E. Lawrence's annotated copy of the 1922 Oxford Times printing.
Lawrence's personal narrative of the revolt of Arab armies against the Turks during the First World War, SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM stands as a monument of modern literature and history. Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill both described the book as one of the greatest in the English language.
But the story of its publication is a famous saga onto itself. Lawrence had nearly completed a first draft manuscript in 1919, but this was stolen or lost along with his briefcase during the month of November of the same year at the Reading train station and never recovered. Lawrence, from memory, created an entirely new draft by May 11, 1920 and then spent two years carefully editing it. The product of this was the famous 1922 'Oxford Text' which he shared with only a few friends and critics. Though one of them, George Bernard Shaw, called it a 'masterpiece' Lawrence still felt it unready and edited out nearly a third of it. This resulted in the famous 'Subscriber's Edition', of which Lawrence printed fewer than 200 copies at great personal financial cost. And only 22 copies of the American issue were printed to secure copyright and never offered for sale. This was followed by "Revolt in the Desert", the first edition generally published of the work, in a further abridged format. It was only after Lawrence's death in 1935 that the full text of the Subscriber's Edition was made available by the publisher Jonathan Cape to the public as SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM. Six decades would pass before the original text, the 'Oxford Text' in all of its over 300,000 word glory, through Wilson's efforts and those of the Castle Hill Press, would finally be available to general readers and students of the work of T.E. Lawrence.
Of it, Sir Winston S. Churchill wrote: "The cost of producing this work was enormous. The author lavished the thought and labours of many months merely upon the typography and illustrations. He reconstructed many of his sentences so that every paragraph should end about half-way through the line. He gave away a large part of the edition to his friends and to persons of high consequence of whom he approved. He chose various beautiful bindings for these copies and delivered many of them personally on his motor-bicycle.
Seven Pillars is a tale of war and adventure and a profound epitome of all that the Arabs mean to the world. It will take its place at once as an English classic. The richness and energy of the theme, the quality of the prose, the sense of the mystic, immeasurable personality lying behind it, raise the work at once and decisively above the level of contemporary productions. It ranks with Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and Gulliver’s Travels as a model of lucid, forcible, fascinating narrative....
Yet intense as is the interest of the story, we feel that many will study it even more closely for the intimate access which it offers to a wonderful and still largely inscrutable man, indifferent to the ordinary prizes of human life and gifted differently and far beyond the normal standards of mankind.
Careless of life or comfort, scornful of wealth or pleasures, having cut out of himself all ambition, all love of power and fame, he nevertheless thirsted for recognition from the generations which he would not see. That he has achieved his purpose cannot be doubted. His book will be read as long as the English language is spoken. Forever it will revive the memories, aye, and the passions, of armageddon; forever it will reveal all that is most characteristic of the Arab race and all that is most vital in war....
The story is told with unrelenting candour. Nothing in Edgar Allan Poe exceeds in horror some of its pages. The description of Lawrence’s torment when he fell unknown into the hands of the Turks is a terrifying, a shocking, and at the same time a necessary passage which enables us to realize better than anything else the war injuries which he sustained, and from which he never completely recovered. We have to think of him in the twenty years that followed as a man seared in body and spirit by the sufferings he had undergone for his country’s cause.
Still, in the main and for all its shadows, this book is a joyous book, and those who read it will not only be instructed and startled but also enthralled and delighted...Lawrence of Arabia is a name that will live in history and in legend. It will never be forgotten..."
And in October of 1936, upon the occasion of the dedication of the Lawrence Memorial at Oxford, Churchill said: "it is one of the treasures of English literature...as a narrative of war and adventure...it is unsurpassed... it ranks with the greatest books ever written in the English language...If Lawrence had never done anything except write this book as a mere work of the imagination, his fame would last in Macaulay's familiar phrase, "as long as the English language is spoken in any quarter of he globe"."
This set of the 1922 edition, published, printed and bound so beautifully, would we suspect, have pleased the author in every way. Item #30528
3 volumes. THE MOST EXQUISITE AND MOST BEAUTIFULLY PRODUCED OF THE LIMITED EDITION COPIES of the 1922 Oxford text. THE FIRST EDITION of the Oxford 1922 text ever to be made available to the general public. ONE OF ONLY 80 specially bound hand-numbered copies accompanied with an illustrations volume and proofs and maps in an additional portfolio. There were only 752 copies printed in total. The 80 hand-numbered copies are supplied with a separate volume of beautifully reproduced illustrations from the reknown "Subscribers Edition" of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, this volume also contains the text 'INTRODUCTION TO SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM, which is the text from the sample proof chapters circulated by Lawrence in 1924 together with the same text from the 1926 edition showing the amendments made on the advice of George Bernard Shaw. This special set also includes a separate portfolio with a set of proofs of the Seven Pillars portraits, with Japanese paper guards between. This portfolio also contains the two folding maps which were included in a pocket in the lesser cloth-bound sets. The set of text volumes, the volume of illustrations and the rear of each of the proof portraits are all numbered '93' by hand. 4to, the text of Seven Pillars being in the magnificent binding for 80 copies only of full dark-blue crushed goatskin by the Fine Bindery with lavishly gilt decorated turn-ins over hand-marbled endpapers by Ann Muir, the spines of the volumes with handsome raised bands tastefully ruled in blind, and gilt lettered in three compartments, a.e.g. The illustrations volume in half dark-blue goatskin over white linen and the proof illustrations and maps in a white linen portfolio with blue paper pocket. The special portfolio made only for these special sets is of white linen covered boards with Japanese vellum sheets placed between each proof portraits. [xx], 433; -879, ; Plates 1 - 127, , 81; maps and proofs pp. A perfect set, everything is as mint and exactly as should be with no evidence of use or age whatsoever, even the white linen slipcase only shows the merest of shelving on the bottom and one side which would be imperceptible on any other colour but white.
(Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 1997).