News | July 5, 2024

Lewis Carroll's Photographs of Alice LIddell Acquired by the Bodleian Libraries

Wikicommons/Public Domain

Alice Liddell's 'Beggar Maid' photograph by Dodgson

Just in time for its Alice's Day celebrations this weekend, the Bodleian Libraries has announced the acquisition of two photographic portraits of Alice Liddell by Charles Dodgson/'Lewis Carroll' as part of the library’s growing photography collection.

It comprises one original albumen of Alice Liddell as The Beggar Maid (1858) and one original glass wet-plate collodion negative of Alice Liddell Wearing a Garland (1860).

Mathematician and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) was best known for his work under the pseudonym ‘Lewis Carroll’ and his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) are both widely acknowledged to have been inspired by Alice Liddell, the daughter of Henry Liddell the Dean of Christ Church, who is the model in both portraits.

These photographs were donated by a private individual who had previously acquired the pieces from the Sotheby’s London sale of Lewis Carroll’s Alice: The Photographs, Books, Papers and Personal Effects of Alice Liddell and Her Family in June 2001 (Lot 00022 and Lot 00037). Before this time, they were with the family of Alice Liddell. Both images were taken at a time when Carroll was very close to the Liddell family. 

In The Beggar Maid, Alice is six years old and wearing what appears to be rags. The image was most likely inspired by a poem written by Carroll's favourite living poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The second image, shows an eight-year-old Alice, wearing a flower crown in her hair. The photographs demonstrate the social custom of dressing wealthy Victorian children up in themed costumes for their portraits.

On the weekend of July 6 - 7, visitors will have the chance to scrutinise the images when, as part of the libraries’ Alice’s Day celebrations, the photographs will be on public display in Blackwell Hall in the Weston Library. The library will be celebrating all things Wonderland with free events for families, while the Lewis Carroll Society will be hosting a series of free lectures about the life and work of Lewis Carroll. Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said:" When people think of Alice in Wonderland, they think of Oxford University and vice versa, and we are absolutely thrilled not only to hold these items within Bodleian collections, but to be putting them on public display for fans of the franchise to enjoy, during Alice’s Day."