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Rare book by Lawrence of Arabia edited in his own hand goes on display in Newark

13 April 2017

A unique original copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia  – bearing the hand written editing marks of its celebrated author – has gone on general display for the very first time at the National Civil War Centre.

A unique original copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom by Lawrence of Arabia  – bearing the hand written editing marks of its celebrated author – has gone on general display for the very first time at the National Civil War Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire. 

 

The controversial book is TE Lawrence's own account of his time in the desert, where he helped a Bedouin army drive the Ottoman Turks from Arab lands and in the process became one of the most famous men in the world.

 

The priceless object will be added to the acclaimed Shifting Sands exhibition - which runs until March 2018 - devoted to this extraordinary story.  

 

Glyn Hughes, Curator at the National Civil War Centre, said: 

 

“Being able to exhibit this incredibly rare copy is a massive thrill and we are in debt to RAF College, Cranwell, for letting us have it on loan.  Some critics have used Seven Pillars to accuse Lawrence of being a fantasist, doubting that many of the exploits he recounts took place.  But our exhibition, based on 10 years archaeological research, suggests it is actually a good account of what indeed did happen on the ground.”

 

The book, dating to 1925, was written whilst Lawrence was based at RAF Cranwell. It was not destined for general sale, but rather copies given to friends and people in his wider circle, including Winston Churchill.   He had a love hate relationship with his celebrity status and joined the RAF under an assumed name in a bid to escape his past.  Seven Pillars was an attempt to 'set the record straight' and might have been finished earlier had he not lost the first manuscript in 1922 in Reading railway station.

 

RAF College, Cranwell, has also loaned a first edition of another of Lawrence's books called The Mint, a sometimes earthy account of his life in the air force, which will also go on display.

 

The Shifting Sands exhibition is open daily 10am to 5pm.  Entry is included in normal museum admission price of £8 adults, £7 concessions and £3.50 children. A season ticket is just £16 and English Heritage members are admitted at half price.