Behold Lewis Carroll’s Original Handwritten & Illustrated Manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1864)

Almost exact­ly 155 years ago, Lewis Car­roll told three young sis­ters a sto­ry. He’d come up with it to enliv­en a long boat trip up the Riv­er Thames, and one of the chil­dren aboard, a cer­tain Alice Lid­dell, enjoyed it so much that she insist­ed that Car­roll com­mit it to paper. Thus, so the leg­end has it, was Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land born, although Lewis Car­roll, then best known as Oxford math­e­mat­ics tutor Charles Lutwidge Dodg­son, had­n’t tak­en up his famous pen name yet, and when he did write down Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, it took its first form as Alice’s Adven­tures Under Ground. You can read that hand­writ­ten man­u­script, com­plete with illus­tra­tions, at the British Library.

Car­roll pre­sent­ed the fic­tion­al Alice’s name­sake with the man­u­script, accord­ing to the British Library, as an ear­ly Christ­mas present in 1864. When his friends encour­aged him to pub­lish it, he per­formed a few revi­sions, “remov­ing some of the fam­i­ly ref­er­ences includ­ed for the amuse­ment of the Lid­dell chil­dren,” adding a cou­ple of chap­ters (the beloved Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter’s tea par­ty being among their new mate­r­i­al), and enlist­ing John Ten­niel, a Punch mag­a­zine car­toon­ist known for his illus­tra­tions of Aesop’s Fables, to cre­ate pro­fes­sion­al art to accom­pa­ny it. The result, reti­tled Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, came out in 1865 and has nev­er gone out of print.

Though Ten­niel’s vivid ren­der­ings of Alice and the eccen­tric char­ac­ters she encoun­ters have remained defin­i­tive, plen­ty of oth­er artists, includ­ing Sal­vador Dalí and Ralph Stead­man, have attempt­ed the sure­ly almost irre­sistible chal­lenge of illus­trat­ing Car­rol­l’s high­ly imag­i­na­tive sto­ry. But today, says Skid­more Col­lege pro­fes­sor Cather­ine J. Gold­en at The Vic­to­ri­an Web, “crit­ics have reeval­u­at­ed Carroll’s car­i­ca­ture-style illus­tra­tion. Car­roll expert­ly inter­twines his hand­writ­ten text with his pic­tures to advance the growth motif. His con­cep­tion of the mouse’s ‘tale’ shaped like an actu­al mouse’s ‘tail’ is an excel­lent exam­ple of emblem­at­ic verse.”

Ten­niel, Gold­en argues, “essen­tial­ly refash­ioned with real­ism and improved upon many of Carroll’s sketchy or anatom­i­cal­ly incor­rect illus­tra­tions, adding domes­tic inte­ri­ors and land­scapes that appealed to mid­dle-class con­sumers of the 1860s.” Even “late twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry graph­ic nov­el adap­ta­tions of Alice in Won­der­land recall many of Carroll’s inven­tive designs as well as those of Ten­niel,” which gives Car­rol­l’s orig­i­nal man­u­script more claim to hav­ing pro­vid­ed the visu­al basis, not just the tex­tu­al one, for the fol­low­ing cen­tu­ry and a half of sequels offi­cial and unof­fi­cial, as well as adap­ta­tions, reen­vi­sion­ings, and reimag­in­ings of this “Christ­mas gift to a dear child in mem­o­ry of a sum­mer day.”

You can view Carroll’s orig­i­nal man­u­script, com­plete with illus­tra­tions, here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land Read by Sir John Giel­gud: A Great Way to Cel­e­brate the Novel’s 150th Anniver­sary

Lewis Carroll’s Pho­tographs of Alice Lid­dell, the Inspi­ra­tion for Alice in Won­der­land

Pho­to of the Real Alice in Won­der­land Cir­ca 1862

See Ralph Steadman’s Twist­ed Illus­tra­tions of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land on the Story’s 150th Anniver­sary

The First Film Adap­ta­tion of Alice in Won­der­land (1903)

Lewis Carroll’s Clas­sic Sto­ry, Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land, Told in Sand Ani­ma­tion

When Aldous Hux­ley Wrote a Script for Disney’s Alice in Won­der­land

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Catherine J. Golden says:

    Glad to be quot­ed in your enjoy­able piece! Those inter­est­ed in learn­ing more about Car­rol­l’s hand­writ­ten man­u­script as well as Ten­niel’s refash­ion­ings and late twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry graph­ic nov­el adap­tions of Alice might enjoy my recent book, Seri­als to Graph­ic Nov­els: The Evo­lu­tion of the Vic­to­ri­an Illus­trat­ed Book. Here is a dis­count coupon good through July.

    Seri­als to Graph­ic Nov­els: The Evo­lu­tion of the Vic­to­ri­an Illus­trat­ed Book
    “A valu­able and com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of an enor­mous sub­ject. Extreme­ly well-writ­ten and a sig­nif­cant addi­tion to scholarship.”—Paul Gold­man, co-edi­tor of Read­ing Vic­to­ri­an Illus­tra­tion, 1855–1875: Spoils of the Lum­ber Room
    “A capa­cious and syn­thet­ic work that draws on a wide vari­ety of schol­ar­ship, a very impres­sive com­mand of the his­to­ry of book illus­tra­tion, a huge array of visu­al and ver­bal texts, and (most impor­tant) a com­mit­ment to the genre as a genre in the his­to­ry of lit­er­ary and artis­tic form.”
    —Peter Bet­je­mann, author of Talk­ing Shop: The Lan­guage of Craft in an Age of Con­sump­tion

    The Vic­to­ri­an illus­trat­ed book came into being, flour­ished, and evolved dur­ing the long nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. While exist­ing schol­ar­ship on Vic­to­ri­an illus­tra­tors large­ly cen­ters on the real­ist artists of the “Six­ties,” this vol­ume exam­ines the entire life­time of the Vic­to­ri­an illus­trat­ed book. Cather­ine Gold­en o ers a new frame­work for view­ing the arc of this vibrant genre, argu­ing that it arose from and con­tin­u­al­ly built on the cre­ative vision of the car­i­ca­ture-style illus­tra­tors of the 1830s. She sur­veys the uid­i­ty of illus­tra­tion styles across ser­i­al install­ments, British and Amer­i­can peri­od­i­cals, adult and children’s lit­er­a­ture, and–more recently–graphic nov­els. Seri­als to Graph­ic Nov­els exam­ines wide­ly rec­og­nized illus­trat­ed texts, such as The Pick­wick Papers, Oliv­er Twist, Alice in Won­der­land, Peter Rab­bit, and
    Tril­by. Gold­en explores fac­tors that con­tributed to the ear­ly pop­u­lar­i­ty of the
    illus­trat­ed book—the growth of com­mod­i­ty cul­ture, a rise in lit­er­a­cy, new
    print­ing technologies—and that ulti­mate­ly cre­at­ed a mass mar­ket for illus­trat­ed ction.
    Gold­en iden­ti­fes present-day visu­al adap­ta­tions of the works of Austen, Dick­ens, and Trol­lope as well as orig­i­nal Neo-Vic­to­ri­an graph­ic nov­els like The League of Extra­or­di­nary Gen­tle­men and Vic­to­ri­an-themed nov­els like Bat­man: Noël as the heirs to the Vic­to­ri­an illus­trat­ed book. With these adap­ta­tions and addi­tions, the Vic­to­ri­an canon has been refash­ioned and repur­posed visu­al­ly for new gen­er­a­tions of read­ers.
    CATHERINE J. GOLDEN, pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish and the Tisch Chair in Arts and Let­ters at Skid­more Col­lege, is author of numer­ous books, includ­ing Post­ing It: The Vic­to­ri­an Rev­o­lu­tion in Let­ter Writ­ing.
    Spe­cial dis­count of $40 is avail­able through July 31, 2017
    CALL 800–226-3822 and have VISA, Mas­ter­Card,
    Amer­i­can Express, or Dis­cov­er num­ber handy. MAIL com­plet­ed order form with check payable
    to Uni­ver­si­ty Press of Flori­da to: Uni­ver­si­ty Press of Flori­da
    15 NW 15th Street Gainesville, FL 32603–1933
    ONLINE at
    Enter dis­count code AU717 at check­out
    *Postage and han­dling fee:
    USA: $6.00 for the first book, $1.00 for each addi­tion­al book.
    Int’l: $15.00 for the first book, $10.00 for each addi­tion­al book.
    Dis­count Code: AU717

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.