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Lawrence, T.E. (Lawrence of Arabia) 1888-1935

The British writer T.E. Lawrence was born in North Wales in 1888 and educated at Oxford High School and Jesus College, Oxford.

From 1911 to 1914 Lawrence worked as an archaeologist in the Middle East for the British Museum excavations team in Northern Syria. On 1 November 1914 the Ottoman Empire declared war on Great Britain. In 1915 he was posted as an intelligence officer to Cairo and subsequently travelled to Hejaz to assess the leadership and prospects of the Arab revolt.

Biography | Seven Pillars of Wisdom | Bibliography | Links

 Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a description of his liaison role between British and Arab forces. Lawrence was determined that the wartime promises of self government made to the Arabs by the British government would be honoured. He helped achieve settlements he considered honourable in Iraq and Jordan. Lawrence returned to England in 1918 and subsequently advised Faisal I, then King of Syria (1918-1920), at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 and worked in the Middle East Department of the Colonial Office in 1921. In 1922 he enlisted in the ranks of the RAF as John Hume Ross to avoid public attention. He adopted the name T.E. Shaw by deed poll in 1927. Lawrence served for 12 years, latterly working to develop RAF rescue launches which saved thousands of lives in World War II. He died in 1935, aged 46, following a motorcycle accident.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

In 1922 Lawrence wished to circulate the text of his magnum opus among friends and arranged for it to be typeset in double columns at the Oxford Times newspaper. He corrected six sets and had them bound. This edition was not available for sale to the public. The British Library has two copies of the 1922 text: No. 2, British Library shelfmark: C.108.k.7 (known as the Shaw copy which George Bernard Shaw gave to the British Museum, bound in leather) and No. 3 (bound in green cloth), shelfmark: C.175.dd.4.

Later Lawrence decided to publish an abridged subscriber's edition. This was printed by Manning Pike in 230 copies in 1926 and is lavishly illustrated including pastel portraits of prominent Arabs by Eric Kennington. Each copy of the edition was bound differently. The text is about a quarter less in extent than the 1922 edition. The British Library's unique and fine copy has, pasted in the frontispiece, a letter from Lawrence (signed as Shaw) to the Director of the British Museum, Frederick Kenyon, and some newspaper cuttings relating to the Middle East, shelfmark: C.42.f.10.

Revolt in the Desert published in 1927 was a further abridgment of the subscriber's 1926 edition, shelfmarks: KTC.37.a.4; Shaw 38; and X.800/9992 (1927 U.S. edition). Lawrence felt forced to authorise this still greater abridgement for the general public to recover his losses as each 1926 subscription copy had cost him nearly three times its selling price.


Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The 1922 "Oxford Times" edition

Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Oxford, (1922), shelfmark: C.108.k.7 and shelfmark: C.175.dd.4. These volumes due to their rarity are not generally available. However any requests to view these volumes will be considered by the curator responsible for the collections.

The Library holds the following substitute copies which can be consulted:

Seven Pillars of Wisdom. [Edited by Jeremy Wilson] Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 1997 (3 vols). Shelfmark: RF.2005.b.88. These volumes are exactly as the 1922 text.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: 1922 and 1926 Texts. [Edited by Jeremy Wilson] Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 1997, (2 vols), shelfmark: YC.1998.b.7332. This edition is a parallel printing of the 1922 and 1926 texts displayed page for page. The 1922 text in these two volumes is the same as that printed in the 1997 three volume set published by Castle Hill Press, shelfmark: RF.2005.b.88.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: The Complete 1922 'Oxford' Text. [Edited by Jeremy Wilson] Woodgreen Common: J.& N. Wilson, 2004, shelfmark: YC.2005.a.112.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: The Complete 1922 Text. [Edited by Jeremy Wilson] Fordingbridge: Castle Hill Press, 2003 (Fine edition: one of 1,225 copies), shelfmark :YC.2005.a.52

The Subscribers Abridged 1926 edition

Seven Pillars of Wisdom. London: [Privately Printed], 1926, shelfmark: C.42.f.10 (one of about 230 copies). Any requests to view this volume will be considered by the curator responsible for the collections.

Alternative editions to this rare 1926 edition which are available to be consulted are Seven Pillars of Wisdom. London: Cape, 1935 (one of 750 copies), shelfmark: C.116.c.7

Revolt in the Desert, U.S. printing. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1927, shelfmark: X.800/9992. An even greater abridgement of the 1926 subscribers edition.

Other works by T.E. Lawrence

The Wilderness of Zin. An archaeological report. London, 1915, shelfmark: 07704.b.7/3.

The Odyssey of Homer. Translated by Thomas Edward Shaw. London, 1932, shelfmark: C.102.f.2. Another edition, shelfmark:

Secret Dispatches from Arabia. Waltham St Lawrence: The Golden Cockerel Press, 1939, shelfmark: C.103.b.5.

The Mint. Notes made in the R.A.F. depot between August and December 1922, and at the Cadet College in 1925. By 352087 A/C Ross. Regrouped and copied in 1927 and 1928 at aircraft depot Karachi. Limited edition No. 12 of 50. Garden City, N.Y. 1936, shelfmark Other editions at shelfmarks Cup.400.h.3 and 10816.h.28.

The Letters of T.E. Lawrence. Edited by David Garnett. London, Jonathan Cape, 1938, shelfmark: 10922.d.5.

Correspondence with Bernard and Charlotte Shaw 1922-26: Letters. T.E.Lawrence. Fordingbridge, Castle Hill Press, 2000, shelfmark: YC.2000.b.1255.


British Library Manuscripts Catalogue letters between Lawrence, and Bernard and Charlotte Shaw.

T.E. Lawrence Studies
Imperial War Museum Exhibition (14 October 2005 - 17 April 2006).