New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1935. First, Limited edition. Hardcover. This is a superior copy of the publisher's finely bound, hand-numbered limited issue of the U.S. first edition. This issue featured quarter dark brown pigskin over maroon buckram boards with beveled edges, maroon top edge, red and yellow head and foot bands, and untrimmed fore and bottom edges. Here is copy #685 of 750, hand-numbered thus on the limitation page.
Condition approaches near fine. The pigskin spine of this U.S. limited edition proved highly susceptible to toning, soiling, and cracking, so most surviving copies suffer shabby spine appearance. This copy is a happy exception, with an unusually square, tight, and clean binding. The boards are flawless, with sharp corners and no reportable scuffing or wear. Spine presentation is excellent, the spine clean with no cracking or flaking, no discernible toning, and vivid gilt. We note only some minor soiling to the lower spine. The contents are likewise impressively clean and bright. We find no previous ownership marks and no spotting. Even the untrimmed fore edges are immaculate and the top edge stain remains uniformly and flawlessly bright. We find uncut signatures beginning at p.89, confirming that this copy is substantially unread. We note only browning at the pastedown gutters, an artefact of the binding materials. The binding is protected beneath a removable clear mylar protective cover and the book is housed in a stout dark maroon cloth slipcase.
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. It 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. In 1922, a 335,000 word version was circulated only 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 more than he made in subscriptions. To recover the loss, Lawrence finally authorized an edition for the general public - but one even further abridged, titled "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. Simultaneous with both the British and U.S. general trade first editions were finely bound, hand-numbered limited editions of 750 copies. Please anticipate the possibility of additional shipping cost for this large, heavy book, depending on destination.
Reference: O'Brien A053. Item #005517