Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lewis Carroll illustrated as well as wrote about Alice's Adventures

Did you know that John Tenniel was not the first person to illustrate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll?

In fact, the author, the Reverend Charles Dodgson - who used the pen name of Lewis Carroll - was also a visual artist who mixed with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and enjoyed drawing.

He illustrated the first version of his story himself. His original manuscript of “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” (as it was first called) - now in the British Library - was written in sepia ink and contains 37 pen and ink illustrations and a rather elaborate title page. 

Pen and ink illustrations for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
by Lewis Carroll

This compares to some 90+ illustrations by Tenniel for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

You can review the book and the fascinating illustrations

What happened to the manuscript and how did it end up at the British Library?

Alice Liddell treasured the manuscript until 1928, but was then forced to sell it to pay death duties after the death of her husband. The manuscript was sold at auction at Sotheby’s for £15,000 to an American dealer, Dr Rosenbach. He in turn sold it to Eldridge Johnson upon returning to America. Following Johnson’s death in 1946 the manuscript was again sold at auction. This time, however, it was purchased by a wealthy group of American benefactors, who donated the manuscript to the British Museum in 1948. The return of this important work to the British people was a token of gratitude for Britain's stand against Adolf Hitler during World War Two.

British Library - text next to full screen view of the manuscript

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