LAWRENCE, T.E., translator. -- HOMER. The Odyssey. London: Sir Emery Walker, Wilfred Merton and Bruce Rogers, 1932.
2o (292 x 204 mm). 26 woodcut roundels printed in gold and black as the title vignette and headpieces to each of the 24 books, book XXII with an additional roundel headpiece (occasional very light offsetting from the roundels). Original black crushed niger by W.H. Smith and Son Ltd, the spine titled and dated in gilt, top edge gilt, others uncut (lightly scuffed at ends of spine); original slipcase (a little worn on joints). Provenance: Col. Ralph Isham (presentation inscription; typescript [see below]); sold Christie's New York, 17 May 1989, lot 114.
FIRST EDITION OF LAWRENCE'S TRANSLATION, LIMITED TO 530 COPIES (500 for sale by subscription). PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY LAWRENCE TO RALPH ISHAM at the end of his Translator's Note at end: "TE Shaw Signed for Isham, one of the book's three begotters." Isham had served on the British staff during the war and had encountered Lawrence at the Colonial Office. In 1927, he returned to New York and worked as a banker. The printer Bruce Rogers "had never met Lawrence, but by happy coincidence he was consulted by Ralph Isham about printing the projected edition of Boswell's papers. When Rogers mentioned his Odyssey scheme [to design and print a fine edition] during a dinner with Isham, he learned that the latter was in touch with Lawrence. As a result, Isham had written to Lawrence on December 6th  explaining the project, for which a fee of £800 was proposed..." (Wilson, p.813). The offer reached Lawrence a month later in India and was extremely attractive to him. He replied to Isham that the offer "knocked me out, temporarily" and was delighted to have a chance to work with Rogers. Lawrence accepted happily, with the understanding that it would take him two years to complete and that it was to go out without his name attached to it. (See Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence of Arabia, New York, 1990, pp.813-815).
Accompanied by a 2-page carbon typescript by Isham giving the story of this presentation copy: "I had not seen [Lawrence] since the Odyssey had been finished and printed, and we talked of it... He asked me how I like Emery Walker's limited edition of the Odyssey. I told him I had not seen it. He said, 'Good Lord, wasn't a copy sent to you? That's very bad. I'll get you one. I'll telephone at once.' I told him that I would not let him give me one, but that I would like one if I could pay for it. He hooted at this. He said, 'That's ridiculous; you are the father of the book. Besides, it's not a question of my giving it to you. When I tell [Wilfred] Merton of Emery Walker's that you haven't had a copy, he'll feel as sick as I do about it and insist on making reparation.'
"Lawrence then telephoned and asked to speak to Mr. Merton. Being told that he was ill and not expected at the office for a fortnight, Lawrence identified himself, and said he wanted to have a copy of the Odyssey sent him at once by hand... Within half an hour the packet arrived. Lawrence ripped it open, took the book to my desk without a word, and wrote in it... 'Signed for Isham, one of the book's three begoettors. TE Shaw." (See lot 140 for more details on Isham.) Copies of The Odyssey signed by Lawrence at the end of his Translator's Note are occasionally seen; presentation copies are VERY SCARCE.
Philip O'Brien notes: "Inspired by reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Bruce Rogers persuaded Lawrence to undertake a new translation of The Odyssey. Begun in 1928 and finished in 1932, the translation was undertaken during Lawrence's free time while he was serving in the ranks ... a beautiful edition" (O'Brien). Lawrence's Letters ... to Bruce Rogers and More Letters ... to Bruce Rogers provide an intriguing insight into the development of Lawrence's translation, his concerns about the correct idiom for the translation, and the practical understanding that his own travels and experiences could bring to the adventures narrated by Homer. Clements pp.41-42; O'Brien A141.