London: Strawberry Press, 1997. Second British edition. Hardcover. This is a beautiful edition of Two Arabic Folk Tales, translated by T.E. Lawrence, edited & illustrated by Paul W. Nash, printed by The Strawberry Press, 1997. The book is bound in handsome brown laid paper-covered boards, the cover with Lawrence’s initials in gilt-stamped outline, the spine gilt-lettered. Condition is as new, the binding showing no wear, the contents immaculate. Per the colophon "This is number 70" of "Around two hundred copies".
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 transformed him into "Lawrence of Arabia." Following Lawrence’s death in 1935, various trusts were established to handle Lawrence’s literary estate, and thus much of his unknown work was printed.
Two Arabic Folk Tales represents a tangential but fascinating installment in Lawrence’s literary corpus. Before Lawrence bore the sobriquet “Lawrence of Arabia”, he was an academic and an archaeologist. In 1910, Frederic Kenyon, the director of the British Museum, agreed last minute to take Lawrence on at an excavation site in Carchemish, Syria. Writing to the Treasury to request additional funds to cover the cost of Lawrence, Kenyon said, “an offer has been received from Mr. T.E. Lawrence (an Arabic scholar, acquainted with the country and an expert in the subject of pottery) to join the expedition Jerablus and to take part in the excavations.” (Wilson, p.77). Defining Lawrence as an ‘Arabic scholar’ in 1910 was a bit of an over exaggeration, his abilities in the language were elementary.
While Lawrence was already in Syria, excavation in Carchemish wasn’t scheduled to commence until around 20 February 1911. In the interim, Lawrence stayed at the American Mission School in Jebail, where he made quick friends with an Arabic teacher, Miss Fareedeh el Akle, who tutored Lawrence. Two Arabic Folk Tales, taken from the diary Lawrence kept while in Syria, is one of his early attempts to master the language through a translation exercise. The monumental presence of a figure such as Lawrence can often eclipse the less manifest and ordained efforts of their origin. Two Arabic Folk Tales is a sobering reminder of the incremental steps that led Lawrence to become indelibly “of Arabia”.
This 1997 printing features an homage to the original 1937 edition. Opposite of appendix B is a reproduction of Eric Kennington’s illustrations. Eric Henri Kennington (1888-1960) was known as a painter, print maker, and sculptor and, most notably, as "a born painter of the nameless heroes of the rank and file" whom he portrayed during both the First and Second World War. In 1921, Kennington traveled to the Middle East for Lawrence where, Lawrence approvingly wrote of his work, “instinctively he drew the men of the desert.” Kennington served as art editor for Lawrence’s legendary 1926 Subscribers’ Edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom and produced many of the drawings therein.
Reference: O'Brien A197. Item #006631