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Military Report on the Sinai Peninsula
Towards 'An English Fourth'
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, The Complete 1922 Text
Paperback edition
'The Mint' and Later Writings About Service Life
Boats for the R.A.F. 1929-1935
reports and correspondence


The Forest Giant


Correspondence with Bernard and Charlotte Shaw
Correspondence with E. M. Forster and F.L. Lucas
More Correspondence with Writers
Correspondence with Edward and David Garnett
Correspondence with Henry Williamson
Translating the Bruce Rogers 'Odyssey'
Correspondence with the Political Elite 1922-1935


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T. E. Lawrence, War in the Desert

Castle Hill Press, 2016, edition of 225 numbered copies.

War in the Desert was abridged from the 'Oxford' text of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Edward Garnett and T.E. Lawrence in the autumn of 1922. This first published edition has been edited from the surviving draft by Jeremy and Nicole Wilson.

100 numbered copies have been bound in quarter-cloth, 45 numbered copies in quarter-goatskin, and 45 numbered copies in full goatskin. 37 copies are reserved.

Working on Correspondence with Edward and David Garnett once again drew our attention to War in the Desert - the never-published abridgement of the 1922 Seven Pillars.

Lawrence abandoned the abridgement, apparently on Bernard Shaw's advice, at a very late stage, when the completed draft was about to go to the publishers. It was a certain best-seller, so the decision not to publish meant sacrificing revenue that would have changed Lawrence's life. He had never expressed any reticence about earning money from War in the Desert. Indeed, he thought War in the Desert a good abridgement. His mentor D.G. Hogarth had read and approved it too.

If War in the Desert had been published in 1923 it would surely have been widely reviewed and translated into several  languages (as was its sucessor Revolt in the Desert a few years later). Lawrence would then have been an internationally recognised writer, financially independent and free to live and write as he pleased. Looking at the care he took over this abridgement - evident in the manuscript - it is astonishing that he accepted Bernard Shaw's advice and cancelled publication. To me, Shaw's vehement, ill-informed intervention (I believe at Charlotte Shaw's behest) seems completely unjustified.

Abandoning the project deprived Lawrence of the reassurance and encouragement that writers get from good reviews. When he did finally receive this reassurance, after publication of Revolt in the Desert, he immediately began to write again. 

So this decision was a really important turning-point in Lawrence's post-war biography - a turning-point overlooked by most of his biographers.

Some years later he gave the draft of War in the Desert to Edward Garnett, as a recompense for unpaid time spent working on it. After Garnett's death it was sold to an American collector who later gave it to the Houghton Library at Harvard.

The draft consists of marked-up pages from the 1922 Oxford Times proof printing of Seven Pillars. Numerous crossings-through and marginal amendments in tiny handwriting make it laborious to piece together the abridgement, still less to appreciate its literary qualities. It seems unlikely that many people have ever attempted to read it.

Yet it cannot be dismissed. Two years later Lawrence began work on a revised abridgement of Seven Pillars for the subscribers' edition. Though War in the Desert was a much shorter abridgement, the thinking behind it must surely have influenced what Lawrence decided to omit. Later, Lawrence abridged the subscribers' text of Seven Pillars for Revolt in the Desert. How much did Revolt owe to its unpublished predecessor?

Even though War in the Desert was not published, its existence was a crucial factor at two points in financing the subscribers' Seven Pillars. Between 1923 and 1925 D.G. Hogarth held the draft (at the time he was Lawrence's Literary Executor). It formed an important part of the bank security for the Seven Pillars loan. Had Lawrence failed to complete the subscribers' text, publication of War in the Desert would probably have refunded the advance subscriptions and repaid the loan. Then, in 1925, Lawrence sold to Jonathan Cape the rights to Revolt in the Desert. The draft of War in the Desert was deposited with Cape and, until Lawrence delivered the new abridgement, it was Cape's security for the advance royalties paid.

To me, the biggest surprise about this project has been the extent to which Lawrence himself worked on it. In correspondence with third-parties he always referred to it as Edward Garnett's abridgement. But Garnett's contribution, which took him only a few days, was setting out the overall shape of the book. He imposed this largely by cutting whole chapters. He did also cut some passages within chapters, but it was Lawrence who made the major contribution at that level. His detailed editing was extremely thoughtful. Between them, they extracted from the many-sided complexities of Seven Pillars a richly observed travel book combined with a fast-moving adventure-story. 

Until now, War in the Desert has been a "suppressed best-seller" in WWI literature, virtually unknown for more than 90 years. Our intention in this small edition is to rescue it from oblivion. Once the text is available, readers can judge how skilfully it was assembled and how successful it might have been.

We have used our published 1922 text as a basis for this edition. There are a few things, such as chapter titles, that had not been drafted when the project stopped. They don't affect the content or readability, so for the purposes of this edition it seemed better not to invent them. Also, we know that the chapters might have been grouped into Books - but we don't know where the breaks between Books would have been, nor how many Books were planned. Lawrence seems to have assumed that such matters would be dealt with by Garnett. Garnett thought they would be done by Lawrence. The same question must have arisen for Revolt in the Desert in 1927 - where the chapters were named but there was no division into Books.  

It is an odd feeling, reading a book that should have been published to wide acclaim 93 years ago - and knowing how much the decision not to publish cost its author.  

This first edition of War in the Desert was fully subscribed.


Edition of 227 numbered copies, of which 190 are for sale.

Trimmed page-size 282 x 176 mm. (the same format as our Letters series).

416 pages, frontis., maps.

Designed and typeset in Caslon by Castle Hill Press.

Standard quarter-cloth binding

100 copies (numbered 91-190) bound in quarter cream canvas with leather title-label, paper-covered sides. In cloth-covered slip-case.

Special bindings containing additional facsimiles:

Quarter-goatskin binding

45 copies (numbered 46-90) bound in quarter goatskin with cloth sides; top edge gilt, head and tail bands. Issued in a card or cloth-covered slip-case.

Full-goatskin binding

45 copies, numbered 1-45, bound in full goatskin. All edges gilt, head and tail bands, hand-marbled endpapers. Issued in a cloth-covered slip-case.

Reserved copies

37 copies numbered I-XXXV, A and B are reserved

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