T. E. Lawrence: Letters to E.T. Leeds, the publisher's limited and numbered full Nigerian goatskin binding with accompanying proof illustrations portfolio
Manor Farm, Andoversford, Gloucestershire: The Whittington Press, 1988. First and limited edition. Full Nigerian Goatskin. This is the strikingly beautiful and scarce full Nigerian goatskin issue of the 1988 Whittington Press edition, hand-numbered copy “XLII” (42 for you non-Romans) of only 80 issued thus. This contents are printed on “a special making of Zerkall mould-made paper” with untrimmed fore and bottom edges and gilt top edge and profusely illustrated with line drawings by Richard Kennedy, a tipped-in photographic frontispiece, and 12 pages of illustrated plates, bearing 24 drawings and correspondence facsimiles and photographs. In addition to Lawrence’s letters to Leeds spanning 1909 to 1935, the contents include commentary by E. T. Leeds, an introduction by Lawrence’s official biographer, J. M. Wilson, and a memoir of E. T. Leeds by D. B. Harden.
The standard binding was quarter buckram over paper-covered boards. Of a total edition of 750 copies, only 80 were issued thus, bound in full orange-brown Nigerian goatskin with gilt front cover illustration and endpapers marbled by Colleen Gryspeerdt. Unique to these 80 full goatskin copies is an accompanying hard-sided, orange-brown paper-covered portfolio containing 10 additional proofs of Richard Kennedy’s illustrations. Both the illustrations portfolio and volume are housed in the publisher’s stout slipcase with tan linen paper-covered top and bottom and dark brown paper-covered sides and spine.
Condition is magnificently fine. The volume features pristine binding and contents. Neither the illustrations portfolio nor the proofs therein show any discernible wear or signs of handling. The slipcase is only very gently scuffed. Edward Thurlow Leeds (1877-1955) was an English archaeologist and museum curator. He was Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum from 1928 to 1945. A decade before he became Lawrence of Arabia: “While T. E. Lawrence was still at school in Oxford he began to take a serious interest in mediaeval archaeology… By 1905 Lawrence was already familiar with the Ashmolean’s extensive mediaeval collection…“
In the spring of 1908, E. T. Leeds became assistant keeper of the Ashmolean and “soon became one of Lawrence’s most valued friends. Although Leeds was eleven years older than Lawrence, such age differences mean very little in an academic context, and the two were soon treating one another on equal terms. They were nevertheless very different in personality. Leeds was by nature a pure scholar” who gave “an impression of pomposity; yet he was evidently a very approachable person, much liked by successive generations of Oxford students. Lawrence, who loved to deflate any kind of self-importance, must have been irresistibly tempted to poke fun at Leeds. When he did so, he found that his victim greatly enjoyed the joke. The special humour in these letters was clearly due to this contrast in personalities.” (from the editor’s Introduction)
The illustrator, Richard Kennedy (1910-1989), went to work for Leonard and Virginia Woolf at their embryonic Hogarth Press in 1926, at the age of sixteen and had a prolific career primarily noted for his work on children’s books. Item #004308