May 2016 | Nate Pedersen

First Edition of "Alice in Wonderland" Heads to Auction

alices-adventures-in-wonderland-first-edition-1865.jpgOne of the great rarities of 19th century literature - a true first edition of "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll - will be up for auction at Christie's in New York City on June 16. The book--one of only 23 known copies--is expected to fetch between $2m and $3m.

Two thousand copies of the first edition of "Alice in Wonderland" were printed by Macmillan in 1865, with 50 advance copies sent to Carroll to give away as he wished. Shortly after their arrival, however, Carroll heard from the book's illustrator, John Tenniel, that he was "entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures." Carroll recalled the print run and asked for the advance copies he'd distributed to be returned to him. Mostly they were, and the vast majority of the print run was scrapped for waste paper.

But at least 23 copies survived, with a lingering possibility that other copies might surface over time. Of the known copies, eighteen are owned by institutions and five by private individuals. 

The copy at auction was given by Carroll to his Oxford colleague George William Kitchin, who passed it on to his daughter Alexandra. She, in turn, sold the book at auction in 1925 to the Pforzheimer library. The book has since passed through multiple hands. Its current owner is Jon Lindseth, a Carroll scholar and bibliographer. To read more about Lindseth and this book, go here.  

[Image from Christie's]