London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1914. First English Edition, first issue binding. Hardcover. This first edition, first issue is the first work published in book form of the man who would a few short years later be transformed from an eccentric junior intelligence officer into “Lawrence of Arabia”. During the First World War Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888-1935), just out of Oxford on an archaeology expedition with the British Museum, was summoned to Cairo where his experience in the language and geography of the region was put to use by the Foreign Office. There began his remarkable odyssey as instigator, organizer, hero, and tragic figure of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. This time defined Lawrence with indelible experience and celebrity which he spent the rest of his famously short life struggling to reconcile and reject, to recount and repress.
Lawrence’s initial engagement in the Middle East was entirely academic. "From 1911-1914 Lawrence was employed by the British Museum at an archaeological dig in northern Syria. The site, on the Euphrates, was known as Carchemish, a major Hittite centre. D. G. Hogarth, Lawrence's mentor, was instrumental in obtaining the position for Lawrence, who worked along with C. Leonard Woolley and P.L.O. Guy.” It may be somewhat of an understatement to say that “The three summers Lawrence spent here were very influential in his later activities...” (O’Brien, p.4) "During January and February 1914, Lawrence and Woolley, in the company of a British Army surveying detachment led by Capt. Newcombe, under the guise of an archaeological survey, mapped the Negev region of the Sinai Peninsula, then under Turkish suzerainty. The British sought updated maps for the war they felt was coming.
To complete the fiction of the archaeological work, Woolley and Lawrence wrote The Wilderness of Zin, the first of Lawrence's works to appear in book form. "K [Kitchener] (the only begetter of the survey) insisted on the Palestine Exploration Funds's bringing out its record of our archaeological researching, p.d.q. as whitewash. Woolley and I had instructions to get it done instanter." (Letters, p.181) Hence this publication
Collectors will note that “part of the original printing was left in sheets and bound for sale at a later date, probably upon Lawrence's death.” The nearly identical 1935 reissue variant binding lacks the full stop after “1914-1915” on the spine. Additionally, Cape in England and Scribner's in America published the book in 1936 (the second English and First American editions, respectively) when many of Lawrence's publications were published or reissued. (O’Brien, A004, pp.6-9) This copy is the First (English) edition, in the first (1914) issue binding.
Condition approaches very good, sound, complete, clean within, and free of any repair or restoration. The original quarter cloth and printed, paper-covered boards binding remains square and tight. The boards are lightly scuffed with wear to extremities the spine lightly sunned. The contents are clean and complete, all of the extensive illustrated plates and accompanying tissue guards, as well as the maps, are intact and perfectly preserved. Minor spotting is confined to the endpapers and adjacent prelims and final index leaves. The sole previous ownership mark is the ink stamp of “Ian S. Pettman” on the upper front free endpaper recto, with his private library corrected ink notation directly above.
Lawrence’s contributions are identified in the Prefatory Note: “Mr. Lawrence is chiefly responsible for the second half of Chapter I (on Akaba); the first part of Chapter II; the account of the Darb el Shur in Chapter III; most of Chapter IV; and the concluding section only (Akaba) on Chapter V. The maps in the book were compiled by Mr. Lawrence… The plates are from photographs taken by both authors.” Lawrence’s contributions regarding “Akaba” are of particular note given his remarkable victory with the forces of the Arab Revolt in the Battle of Aqaba a few short years later in July 1917.
Reference: O’Brien A004. Item #005839