Lewis Carroll Notebook Goes to Auction

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Lewis Carroll fans, take note: on October 20, Sotheby’s London will be auctioning a brown exercise notebook that provides an unexpected glimpse at the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author’s network of confidantes towards the end of his life.


As part of the Library of the English Bibliophile auction series, Carroll’s notebook last appeared on the block in 1946, when it was purchased by a private collector at Manhattan’s Parke-Bernet Galleries.                                                                                                                       

Parke-Bernet became part of the Sotheby’s empire in 1964.      

                                                                                                                                                Sotheby’s representatives declined to comment on the notebook’s current owner, saying only that the book hails from a private collection.


Dating from the summer of 1889, the 40-page notebook is significant because it includes Carroll’s handwritten list of 121 intended recipients of The Nursery Alice, an 1890 adaptation of Alice for the diaper set. 


The Nursery Alice was published 25 years after Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and remarkably, both titles have remained in print to this day. (Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.)


Carroll’s purple-ink notations reveal a detailed hierarchy of gift recipients; Carroll’s sisters top the list, while Mrs. Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for the Alice books, appears at number 34. Carroll also highlighted which friends he wished to recive special copies bound in white morocco leather. (Though similarly bound presentation copies were made for other Carroll works, none were ever produced for The Nursery Alice.) Alice Hargreaves was slated to receive one such volume, but not John Tenniel, who illustrated both works.


Pre-sale estimates place The Nursery Alice 40-page exercise notebook, with one page of algebra questions (in black ink and not in Carroll’s handwriting) and 18 pages presenting 121 names and addresses, in purple ink with original paper wrappers and collector’s chemise and red morocco pull-off box, at £25,000-35,000 ($33,000-46,000).

                                                                                                                                                                

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Pages from Lewis Carroll’s notebook. Images Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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