December 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Rare Copy of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Heading to Auction

A rare copy of the "Cranwell" edition of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom has surfaced at Edinburgh auction house Lyon & Turnbull. The book, signed by Lawrence, is expected to fetch £20,000 (roughly $33,000) when it heads to auction on January 15th as Lot 297 of Sale 399.

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - T. E. Lawrence's famous recount of his role in the Arab Revolt of 1916 - 18, was first printed in the enormously rare "Oxford" edition in 1922. Only eight copies were printed. Lawrence then reworked the text over the next few years, aided by critical commentary from E. M Forster. 

In 1926, Lawrence again took The Seven Pillars of Wisdom to print, this time as part of the "Cranwell" edition, privately printed for subscribers. Of the 211 copies printed, 170 were complete and 32 were intentionally left incomplete, lacking three plates, intended as gifts to the men who had served with Lawrence in Arabia who might not be able to afford the high price of the full edition.  (The complete edition retailed for £31 in 1926, roughly £1500 today).

The copy heading to auction next month is one of these 32 incomplete editions and was gifted by Lawrence to Captain H. M. "Harry" Goldie, who had served with Lawrence during the Revolt.  An ALS from Lawrence to Goldie is tipped-in, which reads in part "You, having been one of us, get (if you want it) a gratis copy of the text of the subscribers edition."

A complete printing of a "Cranwell" edition of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom copy sold at Bohmans in London last year for £50,450 ($82,334).