Salisbury, England: Castle Hill Press, 2003. Quarter goatskin. This is the finely bound, first one-volume limited edition of the full 1922 'Oxford' text from Castle Hill Press, the premier editors and fine press publishers of material by and about T. E. Lawrence, founded by Lawrence’s official biographer, Jeremy Wilson (1944-2017). Of 1,225 total copies, the publisher issued just 180 thus, in quarter Nigerian goatskin, bound by The Fine Bindery and featuring raised spine bands, blind rule compartments and transitions, cloth sides, top edge gilt, ribbon place marker, brown endpapers with adjacent illustrated maps, and head and tail bands, and issued in a rigid, cloth slipcase.
This out-of-series copy is hand-marked "Press Copy" by the publisher on the title page verso limitation. We acquired this copy - one of only 2 designated thus - in flawless, as-new condition directly from Jeremy Wilson. This beautiful first one-volume edition not only features text that was “re-checked against copies of the two source documents” leading to “a number of small improvements” but also a scholarly index by Hazel K. Bell (which won the Weatley Medal, Britain’s major indexing award), as well as 16 pages of black-and-white photographs taken by Lawrence and others during the Arab Revolt.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is the story of T. E. Lawrence's (1888-1935) remarkable odyssey as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, which he began as an eccentric junior intelligence officer and ended as "Lawrence of Arabia." This time defined Lawrence with indelible experience and celebrity, which he would spend the rest of his famously short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress. Lawrence famously resisted publication of his masterwork for the general public during his lifetime.
The saga is remarkable. He nearly completed a massive first draft in 1919, only to famously lose it when his briefcase was mislaid at a train station. This first draft was never recovered. At a fever pitch, Lawrence wrote a new 400,000 word draft in 1920. This punishing burst of writing was followed by an equally brutal process of editing by Lawrence. In 1922, a 335,000 word version was carefully circulated to select friends and literary critics - the famous "Oxford Text". George Bernard Shaw called it "a masterpiece". Nonetheless, Lawrence was unready to see it distributed to the public.
Finally, in 1926, a further edited 250,000 word "Subscribers' Edition" was produced by Lawrence - but fewer than 200 copies were made, each lavishly and uniquely bound. The process cost Lawrence far more than he made in subscriptions. To recover the loss, Lawrence finally authorized an edition for the general public - but one even further abridged and entitled "Revolt in the Desert". It was only in the summer of 1935, in the weeks following Lawrence's death, that the text of the Subscribers' Edition was finally published for circulation to the general public. However, the fuller "Oxford Text" - a third longer than the shortened text which became so famous - would not be republished until 1997. Castle Hill took this text from Lawrence’s original manuscript in the Bodleian Library and Lawrence's annotated proof copy of the 1922 Oxford Times printing. Castle Hill Press first published a three-volume limited edition of 752 sets of the Oxford Text, followed by this one-volume limited edition in 2003.
Reference: O'Brien A034a. Item #004306