The Morgan Library Presents “Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland”
New York, NY, April 13, 2015—Beginning June 26, the Morgan Library & Museum takes visitors on an unforgettable journey exploring one of the greatest tales ever told, Lewis Carroll’s enchanting Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The exhibition marks the 150th anniversary of Alice’s publication in 1865 and sheds light on the genesis of the story and its extraordinary reception in England and abroad. The show includes the original manuscript of Alice, on special loan from the British Library, as well as original correspondence, unique drawings, hand-colored proofs, rare editions, vintage photographs, and important objects associated with the story—some never before exhibited. Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland will be on view through October 11. “Visitors to Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland will encounter the fascinating and often surprising story behind the making of one of the world’s true literary classics,” said Peggy Fogelman, Acting Director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “The Morgan has long held an outstanding collection of Alice material and many of the most important items are featured in the exhibition. We are also extraordinarily grateful to the British Library for loaning the original manuscript to serve as a centerpiece for the show. It is a rare treat.”
The story of Wonderland was first told during a boating trip one English afternoon to Alice Liddell and her two sisters by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his penname Lewis Carroll. Delighted by the fantastic world of logic and nonsense inhabited by rabbits in waistcoats and playing card gardeners, the ten-year-old Alice asked for a written copy of her namesake's adventures underground. Carroll proceeded to painsta kingly write out the story, illustrating the original manuscript with his own pen and ink drawings.
Revised and substantially expanded, the story first appeared in print in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with the iconic illustrations of John Tenniel. However, Tenniel was dissatisfied with the printing quality of his illustrations and the edition was suppressed almost immediately. Today, only about twenty copies of the first printing are known to survive. The story was quickly reprinted and the new edition beautifully reproduced Tenniel’s brilliant drawings. Almost overnight, Alice became a publishing sensation, as the combination of text and illustration brought to life a story that has endured for 150 years. During this long period Alice in Wonderland has never been out of print and has been translated into more than 170 languages.
Section I. Who Are You?
Alice replied, rather shyly ... “I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
The exhibition begins with an introduction to the key players in the Alice tale: Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. Carroll invented himself in 1856, about a decade before the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The pseudonym is derived from the author’s real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, by way of Latin: Charles >Carolus>Carroll; Lutwidge> Ludovicus>Lewis. He came up with the penname, along with a few others, when publishing a poem in a magazine. From the list of options, his editor picked “Lewis Carroll” and he used this name for the rest of his life, first as a byline for his poetry and later when publishing children’s books or writing publicly in the persona of Lewis Carroll. He was known in daily life as Charles Dodgson, and used his real name when lecturing and publishing on mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford University, and when keeping up with his voluminous correspondence. Carroll was also one of the most important amateur photographers of the Victorian era, and it was while photographing in the Christ Church deanery garden, also in the spring of 1856, that he first met Alice Liddell, who later inspired the children’s classic.
Alice Lidell was the fourth of ten children born to Lorina and Henry Liddell. When she was four years old the family moved to Oxford following her father’s appointment as the Dean of Christ Church College. The Liddell children were raised in the Christ Church deanery, located just off of the college’s central Tom Quad, and their lives were filled with comfort but strictly regulated: Alice and her sisters had a governess and a constant stream of tutors and instructors, including the famous art critic John Ruskin, who gave them art lessons.
Section II. Down the Rabbit-Hole
“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought!”
This section explores the long creative process involved in bringing the Alice story to the public. Carroll later recalled that when he first told the story during the afternoon boating trip, he was desperate to “strike out some new line of fairy-lore” and, with no idea what would follow, sent his heroine “straight down a rabbit-hole.” Wonderland emerged over the long afternoon, and at the end of the day, the ten-year-old Alice asked for a written copy of the tale.
It took Carroll a little over two years to finish the manuscript, and still another year to expand and prepare it for publication. Carroll presented a slim volume - the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures—to Alice in 1864.
When Carroll decided to publish the story, he commissioned John Tenniel to re-illustrate the book. Several of Tenniel’s illustrations were influenced by Carroll’s drawings in the manuscript, and author and artist collaborated closely on the designs. Carroll was sensitive to the relationship between text and image and gave instructions as to the exact size of the pictures and precisely ordered their placement. This acute attention to the overall design of the book—the way in which his witty and inventive text interacts with Tenniel’s beautiful drawings—was central to its brilliant reception.
Carroll had originally hoped to publish Alice for the 1864 Christmas market, but delays with the illustrations pushed the date back by several months. In May, it was clear that the book could be ready by summer and Carroll pushed to have some copies published before the three-year anniversary of the boating trip. Two thousand copies were printed at the Clarendon Press in Oxford. The printer delivered the first copies to the Macmillan publishing house on June 27, just in time to have one specially bound and sent to Alice for the anniversary.
Section III. Pictures and Conversations
“And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”
John Tenniel’s illustrations capture the essence of Wonderland: in many respects, they are as important to the story as Carroll’s dazzling text. The artist elaborated on the author’s initial drawings, making the characters and their interactions vibrant and magical.
Tenniel’s illustrations appeared exclusively in black and white for the first 25 years of publication. In the 1880s, he and Carroll began working on an abridged version of the story for younger children, which would include twenty of the illustrations enlarged and colored. The artist’s own hand-colored proofs guided Edmund Evans, one of the leading color printers of the day, when preparing the edition.
Through the Looking-Glass
“Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through—”
Shortly after publishing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865, Carroll wrote to Macmillan that he was contemplating a sequel. A book of transformations, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There takes place six months after our heroine wakes from the dream of Wonderland, when she is seven-and-a-half years old. The book was eventually published in 1871 (with an 1872 title page), and again featured illustrations by John Tenniel that were engraved by well-known Brothers Dalziel firm. Work on the book was slow, partially owing to the pace set by Tenniel, who was at the height of his career and had initially declined the commission. As with Alice, Carroll carefully oversaw the design and production of the book, giving precise instructions for the size and placement of illustrations within the text. The first two impressions sold out within seven weeks of publication, and it too has never been out of print.
Section V. Thus Grew the Tale of Wonderland
Wonderland, this world of logical nonsense, continues to grip our imagination. What began as a simple tale, first told to delight three young children one summer afternoon, has grown beyond the bounds of its original format and narrative. Parodied and adapted in countless ways, the characters and themes of the story continue to live independently as cultural reference points. Alice and her companions first leapt off of the page under the careful eye of the author, who paid close attention to the use of the narrative until his death in 1898. Carroll himself worked to develop the Alice market by issuing tie-ins, licensing the characters for specific products, collaborating on the first stage adaptation, and publishing a facsimile of the manuscript. Following his death and the expiration of copyright in 1907, the characters of Wonderland have more fully infiltrated our world in endlessly unexpected and adaptable expressions.
CHILDREN’S LITERATURE AT THE MORGAN
The drawings and hand-colored proofs for Alice are part of the Morgan’s rich collection of children’s literature, which includes the earliest written record of the Mother Goose tales (a 1695 illustrated manuscript of Charles Perrault’s Contes de Ma Mere l’Oye), illustrated letters of Beatrix Potter, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original watercolors and heavily-revised working manuscript of The Little Prince (1943), and the drafts and drawings for Jean de Brunhoff’s Histoire de Babar (1931).
VISITING WITH FAMILIES
A gallery guide will be available for families, and Wonderland coloring sheets for younger visitors will be on hand for those dining in the Morgan Café. The exhibition installation will include a reading area with colorful carpets and stools where visitors may sit together and page through copies of Alice.
The Morgan Library & Museum
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