LAWRENCE (T.E.) Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph, SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION, ONE OF 170 COMPLETE COPIES, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, [Privately Printed] for the Author by Manning Pike and H. J. Hodgson, 1926
Lot 144
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph, SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION, ONE OF 170 COMPLETE COPIES, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, [Privately Printed] for the Author by Manning Pike and H. J. Hodgson, 1926
Sold for £50,000 (US$ 65,931) inc. premium

Lot Details

Papers and Books of Colonel S.F. Newcombe, RE, DSO, sold on behalf of his descendants

There were six pall bearers at T.E. Lawrence's funeral in 1935, each of whom represented a different aspect of his life. Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe, RE, DSO (1878-1956) was one of these six, and was chosen to represent Lawrence's life in Arabia.

An officer in the Royal Engineers and recipient of the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst, Newcombe had seen service in the Boer War, Egypt and the Sudan before taking charge of a British government survey of Southern Palestine in 1913. This was an area seen as being of particular strategic importance in the event of war with Turkey. Although military in its inception, Newcombe's survey was undertaken under the ostensibly civilian auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund. The survey was joined in January 1914 by two archaeologists, C.L. Woolley and T.E. Lawrence. It fell to Newcombe to give Lawrence his first taste of military life: 'It was his first experience of collaborating with a professional soldier engaged in a military mission, and, moreover, one conducted inside enemy lines. By observing Newcombe at work, planning itineraries, interpreting maps, assessing terrain, as he, Lawrence, would do in the future, he was effectively undergoing a personal training course' (Malcolm Brown, T.E. Lawrence, 2003, p. 45).

Later in 1914, after Turkey had joined the war, Newcombe and Lawrence were transferred to Cairo to join the new Military Intelligence Department, of which Newcombe remained Director until September 1915. After seeing action at Gallipoli and the Somme, Newcombe was appointed head of a small British military mission on the outbreak of the Arab Revolt and in December 1916 was sent to the Hejaz: ʻHe arrived just in time to join Lawrence for the final stages of the march on Wejh. During the next few months he became famous among the Arabs for the wild daring of his attacks on the Hejaz Railway' (Jeremy Wilson, T.E. Lawrence, National Portrait Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, 1988, no. 83). Although Newcombe was the senior officer, he was well aware of his protégé's outstanding ability, remarking in later life that ʻmy own view of Lawrence has always been that of an elder brother to a younger one who was far quicker than I'; while Lawrence himself acknowledged in Seven Pillars of Wisdom that Newcombe's deeds achieved legendary status among the Arabs – ʻ"Newcombe is like fire," they used to complain; "he burns friend and enemy" (1935 edition, p. 239).

Newcombe was to be captured that November when leading an expedition behind enemy lines during the opening stages of the third Battle of Gaza. He managed to escape with the aid of a French girl, Elsie Chaki, whom he had met before the war in Constantinople and was to marry in 1919. (It is doubtless Elsie who lies behind a fleeting reference in a letter to Hornby of 29 June 1917: "I hope you've opened any official letters for me or any from Joyce etc, but don't bother to open any written in French or addressed to my Christian name: they wouldn't interest you a bit"; see his Army Field Service Correspondence Books below).

Newcombe and Elsie had two children, a son to whom Lawrence stood godfather (see Lawrence's letter to Newcombe, below), and a daughter Diane, afterwards Baroness Elles. After the war, he worked on settling the boundaries between the British mandate of Palestine and the French mandate of Syria. During the Second World War he was to come out of retirement to carry out further intelligence work in Iraq. (For a further account and discussion of Newcombe's career, see Kerry Webber's website, In the Shadow of the Crescent).
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LAWRENCE (T.E.) Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph, SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION, ONE OF 170 COMPLETE COPIES, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, [Privately Printed] for the Author by Manning Pike and H. J. Hodgson, 1926 LAWRENCE (T.E.) Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph, SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION, ONE OF 170 COMPLETE COPIES, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, [Privately Printed] for the Author by Manning Pike and H. J. Hodgson, 1926
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a triumph, SUBSCRIBERS' EDITION, ONE OF 170 COMPLETE COPIES, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, printed in red and black, 66 plates including frontispiece portrait of Feisal by Augustus John (many coloured or tinted, 4 double-page), by Eric Kennington, William Roberts, Augustus John, William Nicholson, Paul Nash and others, 4 folding colour maps, 58 illustrations in text (one colour) by Roberts, Nash, Kennington, Blair Hughes-Stanton, Gerturde Hermes and others, initials by Edward Wadsworth, illustrated endpapers by Kennington, INSCRIBED BY LAWRENCE "Complete copy. i.xii.26 TES" on list of illustrations, and with 'Roberts' amended in ink to 'K[ennington]' as usual, first map slightly creased at one edge, very light dampstain to outer margin of a few leaves, otherwise fine in original dark red morocco by Bumpus (signed on rear turn-in), sides with triple gilt rule borders enclosing central arabesque motif, gilt panelled spine in six compartments with pointillé tooling on raised bands, t.e.g. [Clements p.49, stating that "only about 100 copies were produced at 30 guineas each"; O'Brien A040], 4to (252 x 190mm.), [Privately Printed] for the Author by Manning Pike and H. J. Hodgson, 1926


  • S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY OF SEVEN PILLARS, IN A HANDSOME BUMPUS BINDING WITH AN 'ARABIAN' MOTIF. It would be hard to suggest a more direct and poignant association copy than the one belonging to his closest collaborator during his Arabian adventures, his most loyal friend and supporter, and the father of his godson. He was also one of the six pallbearers at Lawrence's funeral, and it was Newcombe who was chosen to represent Arabia.

    We can trace no other copies with a similar motif on the cover of the binding, so it seems likely this binding was especially commissioned for Newcombe by Lawrence. It had been Lawrence's intention that every copy be unique in some way, hence the use of seven different binders. Of the twenty copies recorded as having been bound by Bumpus, most seem to have been in pigskin or half pigskin. Others were done by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, Best, de Coverly, Wood, Macleish and Harrison.

    In common with most of the complete copies, Newcombe's has page XV mis-paginated as VIII, and Kennington's coloured landscape tail-piece ('False Quiet') is present at end of page XVIII. The 'Prickly Pear' plate is included, but not the two Paul Nash line drawings called for on pages 92 ('The prophet's tomb') and 208 (A garden'), or the Blair Hughes-Stanton wood-engraving that in some copies illustrated the dedicatory poem.

    Provenance: Lt. Col. Stewart Francis Newcombe (1878–1956); and thence by descent to the present owner.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the binding is by De Coverley as signed on the turn-in, and not by Bumpus.
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  1. Simon Roberts
    Specialist - Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs
    Montpelier Street
    London, United Kingdom SW7 1HH
    Work +44 20 7393 3828
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