The Original Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Manuscript, Handwritten & Illustrated By Lewis Carroll (1864)

On a sum­mer day in 1862, a tall, stam­mer­ing Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty math­e­mati­cian named Charles Lutwidge Dodg­son took a boat trip up the Riv­er Thames, accom­pa­nied by a col­league and the three young daugh­ters of uni­ver­si­ty chan­cel­lor Hen­ry Lid­dell. To stave off tedi­um dur­ing the five-mile jour­ney, Dodg­son regaled the group with a sto­ry of a bored girl named Alice who finds adven­ture in the most unex­pect­ed places. By the day’s end, Liddell’s mid­dle daugh­ter, also named Alice, was so enthralled by this account that she implored the math­e­mati­cian to write the sto­ry down. Some three years lat­er, Dodg­son would pub­lish Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land under the nom de plume of Lewis Car­roll (the pen name is an Angli­cized ver­sion of “Car­o­lus Ludovi­cus,” the Latinized form of Charles Lud­widge). The peren­ni­al children’s read was imme­di­ate­ly pop­u­lar, count­ing Oscar Wilde and Queen Vic­to­ria among its ardent fans, and has nev­er been out of print since its ini­tial pub­li­ca­tion in 1865.

Alice’s Adven­tures Under Ground, the orig­i­nal ver­sion of the book that Car­roll pre­sent­ed to Alice Lid­dell in 1864, is present­ly housed in the British Library, which has gra­cious­ly made it freely avail­able online. You can view it here. The hand­writ­ten vol­ume includes 37 crisp ink illus­tra­tions, all per­son­al­ly drawn by Dodg­son. Dis­cern­ing Alice read­ers will notice that these illus­tra­tions dif­fer from the icon­ic images (and, to my eyes, very much supe­ri­or) cre­at­ed by famed Punch mag­a­zine polit­i­cal car­toon­ist John Ten­niel.

Title and illus­tra­tions aside, the orig­i­nal man­u­script is con­sid­er­ably slim­mer than the final ver­sion, con­tain­ing rough­ly 12,000 few­er words.

Those wish­ing to revis­it Alice’s adven­tures can do so at the British Library’s site.

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

See Sal­vador Dali’s Illus­tra­tions for the 1969 Edi­tion of Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land

Meryl Streep Shrooms Her Way Through Mod­ern Alice in Won­der­land

The Real Alice in Won­der­land Cir­ca 1862, and Our Favorite Cul­ture Links on the Web

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