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Rare Lawrence of Arabia first editions for sale at Bonhams
The Mint Title Page. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- A valuable collection of books by T. E Lawrence, including a rare first edition of his controversial work, The Mint, goes under the hammer at Bonhams Fine Books, Maps and Manuscripts sale in London on 27 March. In total, the collection could make over £55,000. Each volume is being sold separately.

The Mint is Lawrence’s account of life in the RAF during the early 1920s. He began taking notes for the project soon after enlisting in August 1922 under the assumed name of John Hume Ross. His subterfuge was discovered and he was dismissed the following year although he was permitted to rejoin, in his own name, in 1925. He worked up his initial notes into a draft book which he sent to the literary editor Edward Garnett who showed it to Air Marshall Trenchard, often known as the ‘Father of the RAF’. At Trenchard’s request, Lawrence promised not to publish the book until 1950.

When he left the RAF in March 1935, however, Lawrence turned once again to The Mint but died in a motorbike accident in May of that year before he could complete the work. The editing fell to his brother, the classical archaeologist Professor Arnold Lawrence, who was a considerable figure in his own right, and The Mint was published initially in America at the prohibitive price of $500,000 to protect copyright and, for the same reason, in the UK in 1936 in an edition of 50.

The copy in the sale was owned by Arnold Lawrence who gave it on permanent loan to Edward Eliot, T. E Lawrence’s solicitor. It bears the signature of both men and is estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Also for sale is a first privately printed edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Lawrence’s account of his war experiences and in particular his role in the Arab Revolt against the rule of the Ottoman Empire, allies of Germany. This, his most famous work, was printed privately in 1926 and the copy for auction was a personal gift to Edward Eliot, signed by the author. Lawrence’s version of some events in the book was challenged as inaccurate or exaggerated at the time though subsequent research has supported much of his account. It is estimated at £20,000-30,000.

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