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Seven Pillars of Wisdom — The Book that inspired the movie that inspired the art


Photographs by Scott Beadles.

Artist’s statement: “I recall a movie from memory, something I had seen in my childhood, the memory indefinite. My grandfather sat next to me and pointed out the boundaries of the revolt on the map above the sofa, it was always the centerpiece of his discourse. I remember a vacant climate, a vast expanse that even at such a young age was perceptibly inhospitable. The images of the desert have stuck with me, though muddled by time, the purity of the landscape perpetual. In the reconstruction of a past memory, I photographed what I remember through the distance of time. The intent was of the images, to encapsulate a feeling. Shapshots of the Arabian desert, barbarous and beautiful.”

“Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances.”
— T. E. Lawrence

Seven Pillars of Wisdom
D568.4-L4-1935-CamelT. E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1935
D568.4 L4 1935

History of the printing of Seven Pillars:

“Text I — ‘…I lost it.’

Text II — ‘…All but one page of this text was burned by me in 1922.’


Privately Printed Texts
Oxford 1922
‘…eight copies were required. Five copies (bound in book form, for the convenience of those former members of the Hejaz Expeditionary Force who undertook to read it critically for me) have not yet (April 1927) been destroyed.’

D568.4-L4-1935-DamascusSubscribers’ Text I. xii. 26
‘…Beginners in literature are inclined to fumble with a handful of adjectives round the outline of what they want to describe: but by 1924 I had learnt my first lesson in writing, and was often able to combine two or three of my 1921 phrases into one…The Seven Pillars was so printed and assembled that nobody but myself knew how many copies were produced. I propose to keep this knowledge to myself.’


Published Texts
New York Text
‘Ten copies are offered for sale, at a price high enough to prevent their ever being sold. No further issue of the Seven Pillars will be made in my lifetime.’”

–T. E. Lawrence


“To bring the information up to date, I add that the remaining copies of the Oxford printed Text of 1922 are still in existence, but will not be made public for at least ten years, and then only in a limited edition…The text of the present edition is identical with that of the thirty-guinea edition of 1926, except for the following omissions…necessary to save hurting the feelings of persons still living…” — A. W. Lawrence

Click to view slideshow.


The movie that inspired the art.
Lawrence of Arabia
Burbank, CA: Columbia Tristar Home Video, 1002
PN1997 L38 2002 ARC

Originally produced as a motion picture in 1962. Directed by David Lean. Starring Alec Guinness, Anthony Quin, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole. Music composed by Maurice Jarre. Lawrence of Arabia won the Academy Award for Best Picture, 1962.

And one more for good measure:

“He sat, fireless, in very cold weather, wearing a leather, wool-lined flying suit, with the fattest fountain pen I have ever seen — where he got it I don’t know — and wrote in a splendid great Kalamazoo notebook, leather bound and secured with a patent lock that delighted him.”

T. E. Lawrence, Book Designer: His Friendship with Vyvyan Richards
Vyvyan Richards
Wakefield, West Yorkshire: Fleece Press, 1985/86
Z1116 A3 R54 1985

Reprinted from T. E. Lawrence and His Friends edited by A. W. Lawrence, 1937. From the colophon: “…printed in an edition of 250 copies, on Velin Arches Blanc by Simon Lawrence, who also set the 14pt Caslon, at his Fleece Press…200 copies are bound in quarter cloth and Sage Reynolds paste paper over boards, & 50 are bound in quarter sheepskin parchment and paste paper, signed by Peter Reddick, who engraved the frontispiece portrait of T. E. Lawrence. The book was bound in Otley by Smith Settle…”


View the original article on the OpenBook Blog

1 Comment
  • fathima sadakkathullah
    Posted at 14:27h, 12 November Reply

    which classic movie was based on the book seven pillars of wisdom?

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