22 Oct 2006

T.E. Lawrence’s Compass

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Lieutenant-Colonel T.E. Lawrence, CB, DSO (1888 —1935)

Christie’s, at a London sale titled Exploration and Travel with the Polar Sale Including The Amundsen Collection on September 28th last, sold T.E. Lawrence‘s compass, watch and cigarette case for £254,400 ($477,305), more than 15 times the auction estimate.


The Guardian observed:

The Swiss-made brass compass was included, with the watch and cigarette case, in an exhibition last year at the Imperial War Museum in London. The inscription in the case, which carries his own portrait, explains that they were given to his driver, Corporal Albert Richard Evans, after the Paris peace conference in 1919.

The watch was a cheap one bought in Paris, but the copper case, polished so that it shone like gold, attracted a thief in Syria who tried to rob Lawrence.

Nick Lambourn, Christie’s expert, said: “With Lawrence, as with Stanley or Captain Scott, these are often very idiosyncratic, eccentric figures – but they push the boundaries beyond what us mere mortals could ever achieve.”

Indeed. Lawrence was apparently so “very idiosyncratic” that he was giving away personal cigarette cases, despite being a confirmed non-smoker, and so “very eccentric” that these kinds of personal gifts had been, according to Christie’s, presented to his driver, despite Lawrence never having any driver.

The Daily Mail reports that a knowledgeable biographer blew the whistle on the fraud. Christie’s still seems to be in denial.

Someone’s brass Swiss compass

One Feedback on "T.E. Lawrence’s Compass"

Arthur Beau Palmer

For Christies it seems indeed that hype springs eternal. On top of this comes the Capt Cook boomerang fiasco of Lot 33. A boomerang of New Holland Captain James Cook 1728-1779, in Christies upcoming auction (Sale 7652 Exploration & Travel Sept 25 2008) purports to have been collected on Lieutenant Cook’s first voyage. Complete nonsence. CHRISTIE’S HAVE NOW TO TAKE CARE OF THIER CREDABILILY.


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