Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe was already a legend in the deserts of Arabia before he was joined in Cairo during the early months of the First World War by a group of extraordinary specialists in Middle Eastern affairs. One member of this group was T.E. Lawrence who went on to achieve worldwide fame. Colonel Newcombe's story, like those of other unsung figures in the Anglo-Arabian panoply, has been eclipsed by the legend of ´Lawrence of Arabia´, and has languished in the dusty recesses of regimental records, government files or in the elliptical words of Lawrence’s book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. However, S.F. Newcombe´s untold story is there to be told. IN THE SHADOW OF THE CRESCENT is a story of extraordinary exploits and courage, coupled with Newcombe's own legendary and inexhaustible supply of energy and of remarkable adventures under the very noses of the Ottoman authorities – full of danger, intrigue and perhaps more surprisingly, of romance during Newcombe's captivity in Turkey.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Newcombe auction results

On Wednesday 19 March 2014 Bonhams held an auction of T.E. Lawrence and Stewart Newcombe related items with an impeccable provenance direct from the Newcombe family. A wonderful result was realised with the very first lot (139) which sold way above the estimate. The whole collection realised £196,874. I was present at the preview at Bonhams on the Sunday before the sale and the Newcombe/Lawrence collection was well presented and obviously a star attraction among a wide-ranging and diverse set of important lots relating to Captain Cook, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Elizabeth 1, Shakespeare, Shelley, Churchill, Christy Brown, E.M. Forster and many others.

Newcombe's field notes
I found the Newcombe field notes packed full of interest and it was a real pleasure to spend time with them. The lot consisted of two Army Field Service Correspondence Books—issued to British Army Officers to record their activities, enemy positions and deployments, etc.—a larger note book used as a diary, mostly for the month of July 1917, and a wealth of loose papers including letters to Lawrence and other fellow officers. The price they eventually realised is proof of the continuing interest in T.E. Lawrence and with the added appeal of the Newcombe story that is only now being revealed.  All but one lot realised on or above its top estimate, with the field notes exceeding expectations and with only Lot 149 (The Mint) not reaching its lowest estimate of £4000 and not selling.

I am grateful to Mr Simon Roberts of the Books, Maps, Manuscripts and Historical Photographs Department for referencing this website in the auction catalogue for background information on Newcombe’s life. 

Here are the auction results:

Lot 139
Original field books and other papers kept by Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart Francis Newcombe during operations to destroy the Hejaz Railway in 1917, mostly July 1917.
Sold for £104,500 (€124,657) inc. premium 

NOTE: This was well above the estimated price of £20,000 to 30,000 

Lot 140
Autograph letter signed (".L."), to Colonel S.F. Newcombe ("Dear S.-F."), apologising yet again for being a bad letter-writer, 16 February 1920: IN THE EYES OF "THOSE WHO KNOW" I FAILED' LAWRENCE OF ARABIA ON HIS OWN LEGEND
Estimate £4,000 - 6,000 
Sold for £13,750 (€16,402) inc. premium 

Lot 141
Autograph letter signed ("E.L." and "L."), to Colonel S.F. Newcombe ("Dear S.F.N."), apologising for being such a bad correspondent: 'YOU CAN'T MAKE WAR UPON REBELLION' LAWRENCE OF ARABIA ON IRELAND'S STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE, All Souls College, Oxford, 16 November [1920]
Estimate £1,000 - 1,500 
Sold for £2,750 (€3,280) inc. premium 

Lot 142
Autograph letter signed ("TEL."), to Colonel S.F. Newcombe ("Dear S.F.N."), complaining of the brutal behaviour of France as a colonial power in the Middle East, Amman, 8 November 1921
Estimate £1,000 - 1,500 
Sold for £4,375 (€5,218) inc. premium 

Lot 143
Autograph letter signed ("TEL."), to Colonel S.F. Newcombe (Dear S.F.N."), announcing his enlistment and discussing portraits for Seven Pillars, 15 October 1922
Estimate £2,000 - 3,000 
Sold for £4,750 (€5,666) inc. premium 

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
Estimate £30,000 - 40,000  
Sold for £50,000 (€59,644) inc. premium 

Lot 145
The Odyssey of Homer, [translated by T.E. Lawrence], LIMITED TO 530 COPIES, PRESENTATION COPY FROM T.E. LAWRENCE TO HIS GODSON, STEWART LAWRENCE NEWCOMBE, Emery Walker, Wilfred Merton and Bruce Rogers, 1932
Estimate £4,000 - 6,000  
Sold for £5,625 (€6,710) inc. premium 

Lot 146
Autograph letter signed ("T.E.S."), to Colonel S.F. Newcombe ("Dear S-F"), making contact again after a long interval, Myrtle Cottage, Hythe, 22 June 1932
Estimate £600 - 800  
Sold for £1,750 (€2,087) inc. premium 

Lot 147
Memorial photograph of Eric Kennington's bust of Lawrence of Arabia, taken in a dramatic raking light against a pitch dark background, signed and dated in the month of Lawrence's death by the artist ("Eric H. Kennington/ May 1935"), May 1935
Estimate £600 - 800   
Sold for £1,062 (€1,267) inc. premium 

Lot 148
A Letter from T.E. Lawrence to His Mother, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, NUMBER 22 OF 12 ON BARCHAM GREEN MEDWAY PAPER, FROM AN EDITION OF 30 COPIES, Corvinus Press for Mrs Lawrence, August 1936
Estimate £2000 - 3000   
Sold for £3,750 (€4,473) inc. premium 

Lot 149
The Mint. Notes Made in the R.A.F. Depot Betwen August and December 1922, and at Cadet College in 1925. By 352087 A/c Ross, FIRST EDITION, NUMBER 4 OF 10 COPIES 'FOR SALE', FROM AN EDITION OF 50, A.W. LAWRENCE AND S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, Garden City, Doubleday, Doran, 1936
Estimate £4,000 - 6,000

Lot 150
Crusader Castles, 2 vol., S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, Golden Cockerel Press, 1936
Estimate £500 - 700   
Sold for £1,000 (€1,192) inc. premium 

Lot 151
Lawrence of Arabia, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, NUMBER 73 OF 70 ON BARCHAM GREEN MEDWAY PAPER, Corvinus Press, 22 May 1936
Estimate £600 - 800   
Sold for £1,125 (€1,342) inc. premium 

Lot 152
The Diary of T.E. Lawrence 1911, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, NUMBER 160 OF 130 ON PARCHMENT SUBSTITUTE PAPER, Corvinus Press, June 1937
Estimate £800 - 1200   
Sold for £1,500 (€1,789) inc. premium 

Lot 153
Secret Despatches from Arabia, S.F. NEWCOMBE'S COPY, NUMBER 638 OF 970 COPIES, 1939; Men in Print, NUMBER 301 OF 470 COPIES, 1940, Golden Cockerel Press (2))
Estimate £600 - 800   
Sold for £937 (€1,118) inc. premium