"HERE IS THIS ROTTEN LITTLE BOOK": DESIRABLE FIRST EDITION, PRESENTATION COPY, OF REVOLT IN THE DESERT, WITH A WONDERFUL AND HUMOROUS TIPPED-IN AUTOGRAPH PRESENTATION LETTER SIGNED BY T.E. LAWRENCE
LAWRENCE, T.E. Revolt in the Desert. London: Jonathan Cape, 1927. Quarto, original brown cloth, uncut, original dust jacket. $17,500.
First trade edition, very rare presentation copy, of this popular abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, illustrated with 16 portraits and a large folding map, with signed autograph presentation letter from Lawrence to a Mrs. J. Donnat—part of a social group including Lawrence's mother, Charlotte Payne-Townshend (the wife of Bernard Shaw), and Lady Astor—affixed to the front pastedown explaining the financially driven circumstances of publication, insulting the book's quality, and explaining his intentions not to sign any copies of the title.
Revolt in the Desert, Lawrence's own abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, achieved immediate popular success. "Lawrence had lavished the finest materials and spared no expense in publication of the 1926 Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In doing so costs for production of the book ballooned from his first estimate of £3000 to £13,000. In a letter of 26 March 1925 we find him contemplating selling first his library and then perhaps some of his property at Pole Hill, Chingford. He finally settled on an abridgement of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. This was undertaken in 1926 by Lawrence himself… Three impressions were soon sold out and two more quickly followed in a period of four months. The number of copies in print exceeded 90,000" (O'Brien). "The English edition was handsomely designed by G. Wren Howard and produced to a very high standard" (Wilson). The tipped-in autograph presentation letter, dated in the year of publication, reads in full: "Dear Mrs Donnat, Here is this rotten little book. I'm sorry to have to put you off with so poor a thing. It's only published to get me out of debt, and when the debts are paid off, its publication will stop. You will notice that it is not signed. No copy of 'Revolt' ever will be signed. That's the way I feel about it. Cape insisted on putting my old 'Lawrence' name on the title-page. I wanted to leave it blank, or to put Shaw, my legal name. However in the end we compromised on inverted commas, like 'TEL.' With deepest apologies for being so poor a writer. Yours, TE Shaw." O'Brien A105. Wilson, T.E. Lawrence 249. Owner signature of J. Donnat. Tipped-in advertising leaf at page 434 for Doughty's Travels in Arabia Deserta. Prospectus pamphlets laid in for both Revolt in the Desert and Murry's The Life of Jesus.
Book near-fine, with interior generally lovely and fine, mild toning to extremities of cloth, and boards bowing slightly. Dust jacket extremely good, with foxing mainly to front panel, stray pen mark, wear to extremities, and a few tape repairs to verso. A desirable presentation copy with fine signed autograph letter.