Friday 30 November 2007 by Mal Booth. No comments
Exhibitions, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse, Our exhibition, Lawrence of Arabia and the Light Horse

The many different versions of Seven pillars of wisdom are sometime difficult to understand, but since I put a small box of text about our 1926 subscribers' edition into an article I wrote for Wartime, I have had to field a few questions about them. When we've solved our image attachment problem in WordPress, I'll attach what images we have of each of them for further identification.

I'll now attempt to summarise the differences for you here in text form:

The 1922 "Oxford Times" text
After losing almost all of his first draft of Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading railway station in 1919, Lawrence was urged by his friends to rewrite the lost material. He completed a revised manuscript (which he later gave to the Bodleian Library, Oxford) in May 1922. To prevent loss of the second text, he had eight copies made by the Oxford Times printing works. Five of these were bound and circulated to his wartime colleagues and other close advisers for critical review. It was never available for sale to the public. You can read about the two copies held by the British Library, including copy #2, donated by George Bernard Shaw, here (fourth paragraph).

The 1926 "Subscribers'" abridgement edition
Lawrence incorporated his reviewers' suggestions as well as his own revisions in a lavishly produced subscribers' edition (1926) that was some 80,000 words shorter than the 1922 text. Only 170 full editions were printed and initialled by Lawrence as complete. 22 copies of almost the same text, but with no colour plates and fewer tailpieces were produced in the US under American copyright law in an agreement with George H. Doran designed to circumvent a pirate edition of Seven Pillars appearing in the US.

Revolt in the Desert (1927 abridgement)
This abridgement of Seven Pillars was published in both English and American editions. It sold extremely well, but it caused great controversy in Australia, particularly among light horse veterans, because of Lawrence's exaggerated claims that the Arabs were first to enter Damascus. It is still available today.

The 1935 Jonathon Cape (UK) & Doubleday, Doran (US) editions
When Lawrence died in May 1935, his brother and Literary Executor Arnold offered Jonathan Capt Ltd publication rights to Seven pillars of wisdom (1926 text). Doubleday, Doran was given the US rights. When news of this got out, some owners of the subscribers' edition complained to The Times, fearing a devaluation of their copies. It became the first trade edition, published only six weeks after Lawrence's death. Demand for copies proved enormous and soon 60,000 copies were ordered of the first printing. There were several reprints before the end of 1935 and it has been in print almost ever since.

The 1997 publication of the full 1922 "Oxford Times" text by Castle Hill Press
In 1997 Castle Hill Press first published a three-volume limited edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Complete 1922 Text. Permission was granted by the Seven Pillars of Wisdom Trust. Prior to this (until 1986), the publishers of the subscribers' edition, Cape and Doubleday, had enjoyed exclusive rights to the publication of Seven Pillars because of the substantial duplication between the 1922 and 1926 texts. The "Oxford" text is a third longer than the 1926 text, including many significant personal reflections that were cut from the 1926 text. It was also published later in a one volume hardback limited edition, and released in a "library edition" again in 2003.

The parallel texts, also published by Castle Hill Press in 1997
Both 1922 and 1926 texts of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom were first published side-by-side in a limited edition of 37 sets by Castle Hill Press in 1997. The double column format makes clearly visible the substantial differences between the two texts. The Memorial's set is unique in that it was originally an unbound copy from the first print run, which was incorrectly printed in 32-page sections. Our set was donated by Jeremy Wilson (he and his partner Nicole Helari own Castle Hill Press), the authorised biographer of T.E. Lawrence, and bound for the Memorial by Neale Wootton, one of Australia's foremost fine bookbinders.

So, that's about it. As my father says: "Clear as mud then!".