Curiouser and Curiouser: 150 years of Alice in Wonderland

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of one of the most beloved children’s books. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll (pen name for Charles L. Dodgson) was published in July 1865. Inspired by real events and a real child, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first imagined on a summer’s day in Oxford. On July 4, 1862, Lewis Carroll traveled downriver with the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (the college at which Carroll was a lecturer in Mathematics), and his family. Along the way he told the family a story about a bored little girl called Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The family loved it and at the end of that day, the daughter, Alice Liddell, asked for the story to be written down. He wrote “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” for her, and gave her a handwritten, illustrated copy. The original manuscript is in the British Library and has been digitized:

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, dedication page

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, dedication page

Friends who read the little book convinced Carroll that it should be published. The story was edited, expanded and renamed, and illustrated by John Tenniel – whose famous images clearly take many of their compositions from Carroll’s originals:

“Curiouser and curiouser!” from Carroll’s original manuscript (facsimile copy) PR 4611 .A7 1886

“Curiouser and Curiouser!” Tenniel’s illustrations

John Tenniel’s illustrations brought the story to life and provided the original published image of Alice. When most people think of Alice in her blue dress, blonde hair, and Alice band (hair band), it’s Tenniel’s illustrations they’re remembering. The first edition was published in an edition of 2,000 copies by Macmillan & Co. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a publishing sensation, beloved by children and adults alike. The book has never been out of print and has been translated into at least 176 languages. A facsimile copy of the original manuscript was published in 1886.

The sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There was published in 1872. From our Limited Editions collection we have copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland published in 1932 on the centenary of Carroll’s birth and Alice Through the Looking-Glass published in 1935. Both volumes bear the signature of Alice Hargreaves “the original Alice.” The Tenniel illustrations were re-engraved from the originals by Frederic Warde.


The “original” Alice’s signature

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