T.E. Lawrence's Epic Masterpiece

T.E. Lawrence's Epic Masterpiece

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, A Triumph

Leading our 23 June Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs auction, T.E. Lawrence's epic masterpiece, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, A Triumph represents Lawrence's sole practical involvement in fine printing, using his own text.

Seven Pillars is "a personal, emotional narrative of the Arab revolt in which Lawrence reveals how by sheer willpower he made history. It was a testimony to his vision and persistence and a fulfilment of his desire to write an epic ... its climax is the Arab liberation of Damascus, a victory which successfully concludes a gruelling campaign and vindicates Lawrence's faith in the Arab" (ODNB).



[Privately Printed, 1926], 4to, the 'Subscribers' or 'Cranwell' edition, one of 32 'incomplete' copies [from an edition of 211 copies], inscribed by Lawrence "Incomplete copy i.xii.26 TES" on page XIX, front and rear endpapers wood-engravings by Eric Kennington, "Some Notes on the Writing of Seven Pillars of Wisdom" (1927) [O'Brien A039], and 1 folding map tipped in at beginning, frontispiece portrait of 'Feysal' by Augustus John, 3 further folding maps, 1 aerial photographic plate, 5 photographic plates by T.E. Lawrence and 24 other plates, mostly in colour, and other text illustrations, after Eric Kennington, Blair Hughes-Stanton, William Roberts, Edward Wadsworth etc., original maroon half morocco by Roger de Coverley, t.e.g., spine with gilt decoration and lettering ("The Seven Pillars") in six compartments with raised bands, t.e.g. [O'Brien A040], binding lightly faded, housed in a custom made maroon half morocco solander box lettered in gilt | £25,000 - £35,000 + fees


View Lot 133 ⇒


One of the 32 'incomplete' copies that Lawrence's bibliographer O'Brien notes were presented to the men who had served with Lawrence in Arabia and who were unable to pay the high price asked for the complete issue.




Lawrence had dreams, at least from his undergraduate days at Oxford, of printing fine books. This work represents his sole practical involvement in fine printing, using his own text.

Between 1919 and 1922 four separate drafts were written; of the last he had eight copies printed in 1922 by The Oxford Times for copyright purposes. Preparations for a sumptuous edition proceeded during 1922-5, during which time Lawrence was variously an aircraftman and private in the Tank Corps.




A number of young artists were commissioned to provide the illustrations including Kennington, the Vorticists Roberts, Wadsworth and Dobson, and the more established Augustus John. Kennington travelled to the Middle East to make sketches of many of the main protagonists in the text. His resulting pastel illustrations are particularly striking. The plates were intended to act as "decorational islands" between the books as appendices and not as direct illustrations to the text.

As the volume was completed in late 1926, and copies initialled and dated XII/26, with the final touches in place and just a few copies despatched, Lawrence was posted to India at the turn of the year, leaving the printer Manning Pike to send out the remainder of the large volumes.




By repute this edition is from the library of the Arabist and T.E. Lawrence scholar and diplomat St. John Armitage, and given to him by Brigadier Malcolm Gray Dennison. From St. John Armitage it passed to the bookseller David Sedgwick who loaned it to the German exhibition in Oldenburg and Cologne in 2011, Lawrence von Arabien. Genese eines Mythos; the copy is superbly illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, a copy of which is included in the lot. This copy was recorded by Sedgwick as apparently given to St John Armitage by Dennison. St John Armitage (1924-2004) was a friend of Dennison (1924-1996) and gave the address at his funeral.

We are delighted to present this limited edition of Lawrence's epic masterpiece alongside a selection of books and manuscripts relating to T.E. Lawrence in our forthcoming Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs auction taking place on Wednesday 23 June.

Other highlights include a fine copy of T.E. Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey (Lot 134), autographed letters (Lots 200 & 201),  a first edition presentation copy of The Diary of T.E.Lawrence from Viscount Carlow (owner of the Corvinus Press) to Eric Kennington, art editor of the 1926 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' (Lot 131), and a unique "grangerised" copy of 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom, A Triumph', compiled by Eric Kennington, the 'art editor' of the 1926 or 'Subscribers' edition, who created this 1935 edition as a record of his friendship with T.E. Lawrence (Lot 132).



Auction Information



Wednesday 23rd June 2021 10:00
Live Online


View the auction catalogue ⇒


Viewing by appoitment in Edinburgh 21st & 22nd June



Rare Books, Manuscripts, Maps & Photographs


Lyon & Turnbull’s dedicated team of Rare Books, Manuscripts & Maps specialists have established an international reputation for their auctions, selling both through our UK auction house, and via live online auctions. Our specialists are experts not only on books and manuscripts, but also on current market conditions, an essential combination to the successful sale of fine antiquarian books, modern first editions, folios, autographed letters and important archives.


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