Seven Pillars of Wisdom.[London: Privately Printed], 1926 Stock Code: 144013
An outstanding presentation copy to the financier of this edition, with the rare additional plateOne of the Cranwell or "Subscriber's" edition, one of only five special copies with the additional Blair Hughes-Stanton wood-engraving, this an outstanding presentation copy from Lawrence to his friend Col. Robert Buxton, his former comrade-in-arms who arranged financing of the subscriber's edition, inscribed on the first blank: "R.V.B.'s own copy, which he specially deserves, having gone to war and helped to do the show, and then having gone to banking and financed all the history of the show - persuading his innocent Bank to stand an unknown and unprecedented risk, continuing for years. T.E. Shaw. December 1926"; with a later addition, also by him: "(and not yet ended, indeed. T.E.S. 1931)".The additional plate, a wood engraving to illustrate the dedicatory poem, proofed on India paper and mounted to face the title page, is signed and captioned by the artist.
Robert Vere "Robin" Buxton (1883-1953) met Lawrence in Arabia in August 1918, as commander of the Imperial Camel Corps. In a letter home during the latter part of the desert war, Buxton wrote of Lawrence: "He is the most wonderful of fellows and is our guide, philosopher, and friend. Although he is only a boy to look at and has a very quiet manner, he is known to every Arab in this country for his exploits. He lives entirely with them, wears their clothes, and eats only their food. He always travels in spotless white and in fact reminds one of the Prophet". Lawrence guided Buxton and the Camel Corps on the first stage of the journey to their successful attack on Mudawara. In Lawrence's Seven Pillars, Buxton was described as "an old Sudan official, speaking Arabic, and understanding nomadic ways; very patient, good-humoured, sympathetic" (ch. 99). Buxton played a major role in the campaign which resulted in September 1918 in the cutting of the railway junction at Deraa, ensuring that no trains could run through to Damascus by the Turks.
Buxton was a prominent Lombard Street banker, working at Martins Bank before the First World War where he returned as a director after 1919. After the war he served as Lawrence's banker, "trying to keep some control on Lawrence's chaotic finances". "Though Lawrence's pay and living expenses were small, his fame, tastes, and excessive generosity kept his finances precarious. At All Souls and the Colonial Office, money passed freely through his hands to friends, artists, and bookdealers" (Orlans, p. 131). Buxton played a key role in the financing of the subscriber's edition of Seven Pillars, and later served as one of the trustees of Revolt in the Desert. In a letter to Edward Garnett, critic and adviser to Jonathan Cape with whom, in 1922 Lawrence had abridged War in the Desert from Seven Pillars (it remained unpublished), Lawrence wrote: "Robin Buxton (a humane banker) suggests 120 copies of The Seven Pillars, with all pictures, at perhaps 25 each, if that would cover charges. I feel tempted...." (October 1923). The decision to publish a subscription edition was finally taken at a meeting in Oxford on 9 December 1923. "Lawrence wanted the book to be the acme both of literature and of the bookmaker's craft. The original estimated cost of production, 3,000, turned out to be 10,000 short. To meet the cost, he arranged that a banker and former wartime comrade, Robin Buxton, would finance the book's manufacture, and Lawrence put up the royalties from the still unpublished abridgement, Revolt in the Desert, as security" (Yardley, p. 192). If Lawrence had failed to complete the subscribers' text, publishing War in the Desert would have refunded the advance subscriptions and eventually repaid the loan.
Revising Seven Pillars from the 1922 Oxford Text for the subscriber's edition made Lawrence's war-memories extremely vivid, giving him nightmares. As the work continued, he feared further for his state of mind, and contemplated ending his own life. In 1924 he wrote to Buxton: "I could assign to the Bank, in case of my death or disappearance, the right to publish an abridgement... and to apply the profits of such transaction to meeting any charges they had against either of my accounts.... Is this a possible document? It won't be necessary if I go on all right... but I might go off, just as easily. A burst front tyre, or weariness, or the other fate I'm always fearing. You know, Robin, I'm hardly sane at times" (25 November 1924). The following year he touched again on the subject in a letter to Buxton: "I'm most grateful to you and your bank for making this last two years possible: and your reliance on my not pegging out (deliberately that is) without settling all up, shan't be disappointed" (16 May 1925).
This is an exceptional copy of Lawrence's sumptuously-produced account of his role in the Arab Revolt, bound by one of the seven binders chosen by Lawrence for the subscriber's edition, and one of the 170 designated complete copies from a total edition of 211 copies, so inscribed by Lawrence on p. XIX, "Complete copy. 1.XII.26 TES", and with his manuscript correction to the illustration list (a "K" identifying Kennington rather than Roberts as the artist responsible for "The gad-fly"). In a letter to Buxton on 4 January 1926 Lawrence wrote: "one of my dislikes is the bibliophile, and that sort of man makes a fetish of numbers. To defeat him I am not numbering my copies, nor disclosing to anyone quite how many have been printed, nor making any two just alike" (Pateman, p. 27). This copy is in the usual state, with page XV mispaginated as VIII and as often without the two Paul Nash illustrations called for on pages 92 and 208; it also includes the "Prickly Pear" plate, not called for in the list of illustrations. According to O'Brien, only five copies are known with the Blair Hughes-Stanton plate, "The Poem", including George Bernard Shaw's and the present copy.
Accompanying this copy is a proof of a review by Buxton of Robert Graves's book Lawrence and the Arabs, annotated and initialled by Buxton, and published in Now & Then: A Journal of Books and Personalities, 1927. Buxton writes: "Mr. Graves must be congratulated not only on his sure appreciation of the great and rare qualities in Lawrence, but also on his industry in collecting reliable information of his subject from sources of the most diverse nature... Lawrence's great literary faculties are proved beyond question. His Seven Pillars of Wisdom will rank as a classic for all time".
Quarto (250 x 190 mm). Original tan morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, title lettered in gilt to spine and front board, spine with five double bands, compartments gilt, gilt fillet panel to boards with geometric corner tooling in gilt, board edges and turn-ins ruled in gilt, edges gilt, pictorial endpapers by Eric Kennington. Housed in a custom black morocco folding case.
Additional plate by Blair Hughes-Stanton inserted before title; 66 plates printed by Whittingham & Griggs, including frontispiece portrait of Feisal by Augustus John, many coloured or tinted, 4 of them double-page, by Eric Kennington, William Roberts, Aug
Reproduction of a pencil portrait of Lawrence by Augustus John and a late 18th/early 19th-century hand-colored engraving entitled "Ein Kameel Artillerist" loosely inserted. Spine and extremities a little rubbed, small ink stain on front cover, some minor scattered foxing to contents, maps linen-reinforced at folds, frontispiece map creased and curled slightly, these flaws minor only, an excellent copy in an attractively restrained binding.
O'Brien A040; Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T. E. Lawrence, 1989; Harold Orlans, T. E. Lawrence: Biography of a Broken Hero, 2002; John Pateman, T.E. Lawrence in Lincolnshire, 2012; Lowell Thomas, With Lawrence in Arabia,
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