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LEWIS, Cecil.

Sagittarius Rising.

Published: London: Peter Davies, 1936

Stock code: 99789

Price: £425

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First edition, first impression of one of the classics of Great War literature, widely considered as the finest flying memoir of the war. “At seventeen, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall and equipped with a precocious intelligence, Lewis lied about his age to join the Royal Flying Corps. He celebrated his eighteenth birthday in France, flying patrols over the western front at a time when the average life expectancy of a pilot was three weeks. On 1 July 1916 he flew the first patrol of the Somme offensive and witnessed the mile-high column of earth thrown up by the detonation of mines under the German positions. Later he duelled with the ‘circus’ of Manfred von Richthofen and was the last man to see the aircraft of Albert Ball VC, the allied ace who vanished in a bank of cloud. Lewis also hunted Gotha airships over London by moonlight, and in 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross for continuous bravery” (ODNB). On publication, the book was reviewed in the New Statesman by George Bernard Shaw, who Lewis had encountered while deputy director of programmes at the BBC, and who had permitted him make the first film adaptation of one of his plays. Shaw’s high praise guaranteed the book’s immediate success: “This is a book everyone should read. It is the autobiography of an ace, and no common ace either … This prince of pilots … had a charmed life in every sense of the word.”

Octavo. Original grey marl cloth, titles to spine dark blue. Gift inscription to front free endpaper. Spine faintly toned, foot of spine and lower edge bumped, slight stain to front board, front hinge cracked but holding.

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