Most Unforgettable II


Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Lawrence, T.E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph. London: privately printed and distributed, 1926. 

Lawrence of Arabia

One of the rarest works of modern literature, the 1926 Seven Pillars of Wisdom was privately printed by Lawrence for subscribers. Concerning the number of copies, Lawrence says, "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." A particular feature of this edition is a suite at the end of the volume of pastel and water color drawings of people described in the book, and of scenes from the book.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Some of the pictorial elements of the book found their way into the famous movie Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean. Altogether, this edition is a gorgeous example of the presentation of heroic history.

The seven pillars of wisdom are from chapter nine of the book of Proverbs in the Bible: "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars."

Shown here: One of the set of drawings appended to the end of the volume—"Thinking," a water color by Kennington.


The Odyssey of Homer

Homer. The Odyssey of Homer. [London, Printed and published by Sir Emery Walker, Wilfred Merton, and Bruce Rogers], 1932. 

Homer’s Odyssey

Bruce Rogers was one of the great American book designers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of his masterpieces is Homer’s Odyssey, translated by T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia), under the name T.E. Shaw. Four years in preparation, this limited edition was published in England in 1932 to reviews which called it "easily the outstanding publication of the year." It was said that Shaw (Lawrence), not surprisingly, produced a "ruggedly masculine" translation, and the literary significance of the book was at least equalled by the typographic qualities.

The key to the success of Rogers’ design was its utter simplicity, refinement, and grace. There are no tricks of typesetting or unnecessary fleurons. The type used was Centaur, also designed by Rogers and based on Renaissance models of roman letter fonts. The illustrations consist of circular medallions at the head of each book, drawn by Rogers after Homeric figures, and printed in black on roundels of gold leaf. The text is printed on the famous, but no longer available, Barcham Green paper. The binding is stunningly simple black Niger morocco. An intriguing and unusual side note is that the ink used was chosen because it was an ancient formula, suitable for use with this ancient text. It contained oil of copaiba, a substance which, even after many years, leaves a lingering peppery odor when the book is opened. Thus Bruce Rogers’ Odyssey is a joy to see, touch, and smell, as well as to read.


Lantern slide

Lantern slide photograph of students and teacher in a one- room school for African-Americans, Jackson Davis Papers.

An African-American Photograph

Jackson Davis was Field Secretary, Assistant Director, and eventually Associate Director of the General Education Board, a privately funded agency of the Carnegie Fund. As Field Secretary, he traveled the South from 1915 to 1929 investigating the state of African-American education. During these travels, he took many photographs. This unidentified photograph struck me with its stark simplicity, dignity, and beauty.