'The Mint' and Later Writings About Service Life
Fordingbridge, Hampshire: Castle Hill Press, 2010. Limited "Library Edition" Quarter goatskin. This Castle Hill Press limited edition publishes the original (1928) text of The Mint, together with a selection of Lawrence’s later writings about service life. Of a total edition of 475, 180 copies were bound thus for subscribers, in quarter navy goatskin with raised spine bands and blind ruled compartments and transitions over blue cloth boards with navy ribbon marker, head and foot bands, and gilt top edge. Illustrated, gray endpapers feature an R.A.F. flying boat and the contents contain 22 photographs. This is an as-new, unread copy, both the binding and contents pristine, the limitation number “167” inked by the publisher on the title page verso. The book is housed in a publisher-supplied cardstock slipcase.
The Mint is T. E. Lawrence's unstintingly candid portrait about life in Royal Air Force ranks. "I set out to give a picture of the R.A.F., and my picture might be impressive and clever if I showed only the shadow of it... but I was not making a work of art, but a portrait." T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935) found fame 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 told the tale of this time in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a work with a tortuous writing, editing, and publishing history culminating in posthumous publication. Perhaps equally tortuous is the tale of how this story about the R.A.F. was written and published. In a state of nervous exhaustion following the First World War, his work on the post-war settlement, and writing and re-writing Seven Pillars of Wisdom, in 1922, Lawrence enlisted in the ranks of the R.A.F. under the name of John Hume Ross. He swiftly concluded "there is grand stuff here, and if I could write it..." so he began making notes "scribbled at night, between last post and lights out, in bed."
In January 1923 his identity became public and he was discharged from the R.A.F., but allowed to re-enlist two and a half years later, this time using the surname "Shaw", under which he had meanwhile served in the Tank Corps. On re-enlistment, he resumed making notes. In 1927, while serving in Karachi, Lawrence arranged these notes into a manuscript which he circulated to a small number of people, including Air Marshal Hugh Trenchard. As with Seven Pillars of Wisdom, publishers were eager, but Lawrence resisted, in part due to Trenchard's concerns.
A saga followed in which efforts were made to control publication via uncirculated copyright editions in both the U.S. and Britain; the book remained unavailable to the public. Lawrence made revisions in the last months of his life with a possible view to publication in a private edition (as he had done with the 1926 Subscriber's Edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom), but the work remained unpublished until 1955, after the death of an officer described unfavorably in the text. Even then, the British edition blanked out objectionable words and substituted name changes to avoid libel.
In 2009 Castle Hill Press, the premier editors and fine press publishers of material by and about T. E. Lawrence, published the most comprehensive edition of The Mint to date, containing the full 1928 text of The Mint together with a selection of Lawrence’s later writings about service life. “The narrative of Lawrence’s RAF years therefore begins in 1922 and ends with his retirement in February 1935... The result is a far more interesting version of Lawrence's second book.” In 2010, Castle Hill Press published this “Library Edition” containing the 1928 text and “a slightly shortened selection of Lawrence’s later writings about service life.”
For reference to the original publication of The Mint see O’Brien A166. Item #004430