This Holiday, Head Down the Rabbit Hole with Alice

Courtesy of Folio Society

Got a kid bibliophile on your holiday list? Or perhaps a Lewis Carroll fan of any age? Fret not, the Folio Society has you covered with its latest edition of Alice in Wonderland ($69.95), whose stunningly designed slipcase and interior illustrations are by a regular contributor to Folio Society’s publications, Charles van Sandwyk (How to See Fairies and The Wind in the Willows).

This new edition of Lewis Carroll’s tale features  37 integrated color illustrations and 44 black-and-white renderings, with maps of Neverland serving as endpapers. Folio Society aficionados may recall the publishing house’s limited, now sold-out edition of Alice in Wonderland from 2015; van Sandwyk’s charming art graced that version, and astute readers will find similarities between the two.

Hailing from South Africa, the self-taught van Sandwyk pegged these Alice illustrations to critical elements in various chapters: mock turtle soup steams up from a tureen, a grinning Cheshire cat stares down from a tree at a quizzical Alice, a thoroughly sleepy-looking mouse peers out from a teapot. In a recent interview, van Sandwyk shared his appreciation for the style of Beatrix Potter, whose influence here is wonderfully evident. “I adore her little books. One of the things I like so much about her, and what I try to emulate in my work, is an unwavering quest for high quality, non-commercial artistry rather than following the trends of the day.”

Illustrating Alice comes with its own challenges, especially since the book, at least in English, is so often associated with the original artwork by John Tenniel--a fact that van Sandwyk says is an unavoidable but necessary element to the book’s unbridled success. “Of course Tenniel is synonymous with Carroll, it is perhaps the first true collaboration between children's writer and artist,” he said. “To my mind, the story wouldn't have become as famous without Tenniel, nor would Tenniel be as famous an artist without Carroll's brilliant story.”

By illustrating a book that’s never gone out of print since first appearing in 1865, van Sandwyk joins a league of illustrators who've taken up the mantle--Barry Moser, Charles Robinson, Arthur Rackham, to name a few. Much like each generation demands its own version of classic works of literature, illustration and design often references their own era, breathing renewed relevance into the text at hand. “I think if you come to realize that every artist has a slightly different vision with such a fine and creative story, then we each have our place in trying our hand at illustrating it.”

The illustrator’s goal with this iteration was, as van Sandwyk put it, “to create something jewel-like and beautiful, and to give a feel for the characters that you might believe they each have in a private life, and thoughts of their own.” 

Ultimately, van Sandwyk hopes that readers will find his undertaking a smart and charming accompaniment to Alice. “It is a remarkably entertaining, inventive, silly, witty, and clever story. There have been many things like it since, hardly ever as good, but it remains a yardstick by which we can measure so much in life. If you want a good laugh, just read the part about the Treacle Well…”

Intrigued? Get your holiday orders in before December 8 to ensure Christmas delivery (December 12 for expedited.)

Click here to see more images for Alice as well as for another lovely Folio Society offering, The Velveteen Rabbit.