This week we are looking at one of the classics of children’s literature, and our most popular title, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, also commonly published as Alice in Wonderland.
This beloved book by Lewis Carroll, has, since its 1865 release, been a mainstay in both literary and popular culture. Due to its popularity, there have been numerous editions of the work throughout the years by a large variety of publishers. As the story goes, Carroll, real name Charles Dodgson, initially wrote the story Alice’s Adventures Under Ground for Alice Liddell, the daughter of a friend. He presented her with a handwritten and illustrated manuscript in late 1864 but had also been working on extending this initial story into the now famous novel.
For its first publication, the 1865 Macmillan edition, Carroll enlisted notable illustrator John Tenniel to create the artwork. Tenniel created 42 wood-engraved illustrations for the book which are probably the most widely recognised and reused depictions. Possibly due to being the first depiction of the book’s kooky characters, coupled with the woodblock technique, these illustrations have an elegant feel and seem to be antiquated yet somehow remain fresh. Tenniel’s work has been reused in many of the subsequent editions in a variety of ways, sometimes alongside colour plates by other illustrators and sometimes slightly adapted such as the Folio Society later impressions which simply change the line colour from black to red.
However, over seventy illustrators have produced work for the numerous editions including the likes of Rene Cloke, D.R. Sexton, Willy Pogany and many more. The push for this happened in 1907 when the copyright for the novel fell into public domain allowing publishers to print the work with all newly commissioned artwork. One of the first major overhauls for came from publishers Heineman in 1907 when they released a limited edition of 1330 numbered copies with colour plates by the wonderful Arthur Rackham. For this release, Rackham created 13 full-colour plates which leapt from the page. There was much more detail and intricacy than the previous Tenniel illustrations and the addition of colour, though somewhat muted, only served to enhance the richness of this magical world.
The most prized edition we have at World of Rare Books comes in the form of the artist signed limited edition of 1922 by Hodder and Staunton. The signed artist edition was limited to 250 hand-numbered copies all signed by artist Gwynedd M. Hudson. The twelve colour plates and numerous in-text illustrations and designs are vibrant and accentuate that childlike wonder within the book. Interestingly there are many elements of these illustrations that seem to have been carried on to the later Disney animation. The other interesting thing about this edition is the misspelling of the author’s name as Lewis Caroll on the title page, publishing errors often lend validity and a certain kind of collect-ability to a piece of work.
In 1969 Random House published a rather unique limited edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland commissioning the father of surrealism, Salvador Dali, to lend his style to the story. Dali created a four colour frontispiece along with a heliogravure to accompany each chapter, twelve in all. As imagined Dali created some stunning work that captures the wonder and surreal elements of Carroll’s work. Only 2700 copies of this edition were printed with Dali signing each and due to the book’s, and his own, popularity these have become an exclusive collector’s edition many of which have had their plates removed and sold on separately.
With the vast publishing history that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has had, and the love that children and adults alike share for the work, there are a wealth of treasures out there for the collector to find. Whether it’s the edition you first read as a child or the harder to come by limited editions, let us help you to find your perfect Alice.