Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Alice

A photograph of the three young Liddell girls sitting on a couch.

Left to right: Edith, Lorina and Alice Liddell, ca. 1858.
Alice was six years old.

Illustration from the first printing of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice by Sir John Tenniel.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the work for which Lewis Carroll is best remembered, grew out of a river outing by Carroll, his friend Robinson Duckworth, and the three young daughters of Dean Liddell - Lorina, Alice and Edith. Carroll first told the girls the story of Alice during that memorable day, 4 July 1862, and, upon their urging, expanded it into a manuscript version shortly thereafter. In November 1864 he presented his manuscript tale, "Alice’s Adventures Under Ground," to Alice Liddell.

Carroll was already at work preparing Alice for publication. Obtaining the services of one of Britain’s foremost caricaturists and illustrators, Sir John Tenniel, Carroll presented the finished manuscript to Macmillan in early 1865. At Tenniel’s urging the first printing with the title-page date of 1865 was scrapped by Carroll, and the first truly published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is dated 1866.

Alice was an immediate success, with 20,000 copies printed by 1870, and 100,000 by 1884. The magic world of Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat quickly became as much a part of English literature as Shakespeare and Dickens. A sequel, Through the Looking Glass, also illustrated by Tenniel, appeared in 1872.

In June 1865, Lewis Carroll had fifty copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland bound up for presentation to family and friends. Shortly afterward the illustrator, John Tenniel, complained to Carroll that he was "entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures." The author gave in to Tenniel’s request that the issue be suppressed. Carroll then attempted to recover the presentation copies, promising to replace them. All but perhaps fifteen copies were returned to Carroll, who then removed the presentation inscriptions and donated the books to children’s hospitals.

Cover of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

First edition of Alice's Adventures
in Wonderland
(London, 1865).
The Ransom Center copy, known
as "The India Alice."

Title page of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Title page of Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland

(London, 1865).

In early 1961, a tea planter in Kenya recognized that the worn copy of Alice he’d bought ten years earlier in a second-hand book shop in Bangalore, India, was in fact one of the hospital copies. This copy came eventually into the hands of Warren Weaver, the American mathematician and Carroll collector, whose collection is now at the Ransom Center.

The "India Alice" (as Weaver called it) is inscribed on the front pastedown "Metropolitan Convalescent Institution Children’s Branch, August, 1866"; it also bears the inscribed name "Alice Cousins" on the frontispiece. Weaver theorized that Alice Cousins might well have been the patient at the children’s hospital who in late 1866 or shortly thereafter took this Alice with her upon her discharge.

Costume design by Lucien Besche

LucienBesche was a miniature portrait painter
who designed costumes for a number of
London plays, including this adaptation of
Carroll’s book.

Costume design by Lucien Besche

Two Lucien Besche costume designs for the first
production of Alice in Wonderland, a Musical
Dream-Play
(1886).

Title page from Russian translation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Ania v Stranie Chudes (Berlin, 1923).
This rare Russian-language Alice was translated by
the young Vladimir Nabokov under his pseudonym
"V. Sirin." The future author of Lolita purportedly
received five dollars for his labors.

Next: In Memoriam

Introductory - Early Life at Croft Rectory - Carroll at Oxford -
- Carroll the Photographer - Photographs of Children -
- Logic, Mathematics, and Puzzles - Alice - In Memoriam -