THE ‘GIFT EDITION’ OF REVOLT IN THE DESERT – ‘BY FAR THE BEST-LOOKING OF ALL THE AMERICAN IMPRESSIONS’ – FROM THE LIBRARY OF JEREMY WILSON
LAWRENCE, Thomas Edward. Revolt in the Desert. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1927.
Octavo (238 x 159mm), pp. xvi, [4 (foreword, verso blank, fly-title, verso blank)], 335, [1 (blank)]. Frontispiece after Augustus John, 22 plates after Eric Kennington, Augustus John, William Roberts, et al., one folding, and one folding map printed in red and black. Illustrations in the text. (A few light spots and small marks, folding map slightly creased.) Original brown buckram, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, top edges brown, others uncut, a few ll. unopened, endpapers with designs after Eric Kennington. (A few light marks, extremities lightly rubbed, corners slightly bumped.) A very good copy in the original cloth. Provenance: Jeremy Michael Wilson (1944-2017, booklabel on front free endpaper).
Second American (‘Gift’) edition. Revolt in the Desert was an abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, which was undertaken by Lawrence to defray some of the significant expenses incurred by the lavish and painstaking production of the ‘subscriber’s’ or ‘Cranwell’ edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, that had escalated from an initial estimate of £3,000 to some £13,000. The abridgement ‘was undertaken in 1926 by Lawrence himself with the help of some of his fellow servicemen, the earlier attempt by Edward Garnett having been set aside. Taking a set of proofs of the Cranwell edition and using a brush and purple ink, Lawrence marked out sections of the text. Whole chapters and large portions of others were dropped. […] [O]f 652 pages 211 were omitted entirely’ (O’Brien, p. 77). Revolt in the Desert was first published in March 1927 and it enjoyed great success in both Britain and America – by May 1927 more than 90,000 copies had been sold, which enabled Lawrence to pay off the costs of Seven Pillars and to exercise his contractual right to forbid Cape to print any further impressions of the work in Britain.
The first American edition of Revolt in the Desert was published on 29 March 1927 at a price of $3 and was followed several months later by this second American edition, also known as the ‘Gift Edition’, which was ‘[b]y far the best-looking of all the American impressions’ (O’Brien, p. 78) and was issued for the Christmas season at the higher price of $5. The ‘Gift Edition’ is notable for its illustrations, since it includes ‘18 [monochrome] line cuts in the text from 1926 Seven Pillars of Wisdom not present in any other edition of Revolt. […] It contains Kennington endpapers and some line cuts in the text found elsewhere only in the 1926 Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ (O’Brien). Curiously, in this edition the frontispiece portrait after Augustus John is reversed on the vertical axis so that Lawrence faces towards the title-page.
This copy was previously in the collection of the distinguished Lawrence scholar Jeremy Wilson, the author of the National Portrait Gallery catalogue T.E. Lawrence: Lawrence of Arabia (London, 1988) which included the first American edition of Revolt in the Desert as no. 249: ‘George H. Doran, the publisher of the American edition had considerable doubts about its prospects in the US market, and he was pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be a commercial success’. Wilson was also the editor of T.E. Lawrence’s Minorities (London, 1971) and the author of Lawrence of Arabia: The Authorised Biography of T.E. Lawrence (London, 1989), and the co-founder, with his wife Nicole, of the Castle Hill Press. The Castle Hill Press’ first publication was Seven Pillars of Wisdom. A Triumph. The Complete 1922 Text. Edited by Jeremy Wilson (Fordingbridge, 1997), which was the first publication of the text of the ‘Oxford Edition’, and this was followed by further editions of the 1922 text as well as a parallel text edition of the 1922 and 1926 texts, and further scholarly editions of works by Lawrence.
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