Revolt in the Desert
Melbourne & New York: George J. Hicks & Co. / Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1927. First "Australasian Edition" Hardcover. This Australasian issue of Revolt in the Desert is distinguished by the unique dust jacket. Australian publisher George J. Hicks & Co obtained second printing copies from the American publisher, Doran, which were then fitted with a “George J. Hicks & Co.” dust jacket. The second printing of the American first edition swiftly followed the first in 1927, differing only by absence of a small publisher’s insignia on the copyright page and “Doubleday, Doran” rather than just “Doran” on the title page (the merger having occurred in 1927 after the first printing). As noted by O’Brien (A107, p.83) “at least two copies of this later impression exist which have dust wrapper with George J. Hicks imprint on spine.” This is one such copy.
The Australasian jacket is printed black on heavy, ribbed, tan paper featuring a front cover line drawing profile of Lawrence in Arab headdress, a la Kennington. The Australian publisher’s name appears on both faces and the spine. The rear face features a blurb about the book, a price, and specifies “Australasian Edition”. The front and rear flaps feature brief paragraphs about the author, the Arab Revolt, and the book. The American trade edition was handsome, bound in grey-red buckram with black print and illustrations on both the front cover and spine and a red-brown stained top edge. The contents are bound with illustrated endpapers and 16 illustrations on coated paper.
Condition of volume and jacket is very good. Wear appears confined to the bottom edges and a few trivial blemishes to the upper rear cover. The contents are clean and bright with no spotting. All illustrations are present, as is the rear folding map. The topstain appears unfaded. The fore and bottom edges are bright and clean. The sole previous ownership marks appear on the half title and attest to Australian provenance. An inked gift inscription reads “Michael from Mother Sept. 15th 1928. Sydney. Australia” above a Sydney bookseller’s three-line ink-stamp. The dust jacket that renders this issue unique is nearly complete, suffering only a shallow, irregular strip loss at the spine head that does not impact any spine print. The spine is lightly toned, there is light wear to the top edge of the front face, mild overall soiling, and a half-hint of a cup ring on the front face. Nonetheless, this is a quite presentable example of a scarce jacket, now protected beneath a clear, removable, archival cover.
The story is that 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." He spent the rest of his famously short life struggling to variously reconcile, reject, recount, and repress this indelible experience.
Lawrence famously resisted publication of his magnum opus for the general public during his lifetime. The history of the publication of Seven Pillars of Wisdom and its many versions - including Revolt in the Desert - is almost as complicated and interesting as the author himself. After years, multiple drafts, and brutal rounds of editing and reduction, in 1926, a "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. To pay his debts, he finally consented to publication of this abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which he undertook to do himself.
Taking a set of proofs of the Subscriber’s Edition, Lawrence swiftly marked out whole chapters and large portions of others. “Chapters 1-7 were dropped completely, and of 652 pages 211 were omitted entirely… Once his debt had been cleared, he ordered that no more copies were to be printed.” (O’Brien, pp.77-78) Revolt in the Desert was the only version of his work published for the general public during Lawrence’s lifetime.
Reference: See O’Brien A107. Item #006615