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).
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.
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