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A copy of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence, which contained a lost letter from the author to Lord Rennell, sold for a UK record price of £40,850 in Lyon & Turnbull’s successful book sale on 26th May 2010.
Simon Vickers, Book Specialist at Lyon & Turnbull, said “This was a terrific result and I believe the lost letter had a great deal to do with us reaching this fantastic price. The book, a signed copy of Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, was brought in by the vendor, which is exciting enough as he only printed 170 copies, but it was when I was leafing through the book that I noticed the letter. It is a wonderful everyday letter from Lawrence discussing his move to RAF Cadet College, Cranwell, as well as trying to dissuade Lord Rennell from buying the very copy of Seven Pillars we sold today.”
The autographed letter signed with initials (Yours, T.E.S.) to F.R. Rodd [later Lord Rennell of Rodd], described Lincolnshire: "Yes I'm here now ... Lincolnshire is like a picture of dead earth in green & grey", life in the RAF: "The camp is good. Also the fellows, also the life. Mark me down for a further spell of quite happy existence", and progress on the Seven Pillars of Wisdom: "I had made up my mind, in Bovington, to come to a natural end about Xmas, when the reprint of my book would have been finished ... it will not be ready much before March. You don't really want one, you know. Thirty guineas is an absurd price. Wash out the idea. In return I'll put Haslam down for one. Rich men are fair game. He will have to send a cheque for £15.15.0 marked 7 Pillars account ... I've got too many subscribers, so am very sticky over these last copies". Two pages from 338171, AC II Shaw, Hut 105, R.A.F. Cadet College, Cranwell, Lincs, 3.XI.25.
The book also contains two receipts for fifteen guineas for the copy sent to W H Haslam Esq., and the copy for sale to F R Rodd.
Thomas Edward Lawrence, the illegitimate son of Sir Thomas Chapman, an Anglo-Irish baronet, was born on 16th August, 1888. Educated at Oxford High School he developed a strong interest in archaeology and military history.
In 1911 Lawrence was recruited by D G Hogarth of Ashmolean Museum, to join an archaeological expedition led by Sir Finders Petrie at Carchemish, on the Euphrates. As the dig was closed down during the summer months he used this time to explore the area. It also gave him the opportunity to learn to speak numerous Arab dialects.
On the outbreak of the First World War Lawrence was recruited by army intelligence in North Africa and worked as a junior officer in Egypt. In October 1916 he was sent to meet important Arab leaders and after negotiations it was agreed to help Lawrence to lead an Arab revolt against the Turks.
Lawrence of Arabia, as he became known, carried out raids on the Damascus-Medina Railway. His men alsocaptured the port of Aqaba in July 1917. Sympathetic to Arab nationalism, he helped established local government in captured towns such as Dera.
Lawrence had been converted to the cause of the Arabs and felt they were betrayed by the treaties agreed at the Paris Peace Conference. In 1921 Lawrence joined the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office. He also served as special adviser on Arab affairs to Winston Churchill, the Colonial Secretary (1921-22). Both men visited the Middle East in an attempt to deal with the growing conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine.
His account of the Arab revolt, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom was published privately in 1926. Later that year he rejoined the RAF and served for two years on the north-west frontier of India. In March 1935 Lawrence left the RAF. Two months later he was involved in a serious motor-cycle accident near his home in Dorset and died from his injuries six days later.