This November: the real 150th Anniversary of the Publication of Alice in Wonderland

First Edition of Alice in Wonderland

The history of the publication of one of the most influential children’s books ever written was not straightforward. Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll’s real name) told the story to Alice and her sisters on a boat trip on July 4th 1862. Alice loved it and begged him to write it down, so over the following months he laboriously copied it out for her, adding his own scratchy drawings. Because of his day job – Mathematics Tutor at Christ Church College – and his other engagements, he did not get around to giving it to Alice for another two years.

In the meantime the MacDonald family’s children saw the manuscript, then called Alice’s Adventures Underground, and urged Mr Dodgson to publish. So he expanded the story, adding the Mad Tea Party and the Cheshire Cat and turning the croquet mallets from ostriches into flamingos. Then he approached Tenniel to illustrate the book, a great coup for him at the time as Tenniel was a well-known illustrator for Punch.

Mr Dodgson changed the name of his book too. He wrote to a friend that Alice’s Adventures Underground sounded as if it might well contain instructions about mines. He thought about:                         Alice among the elves/goblins

Alice’s hour/doings/Adventures in Elfland/Wonderland

After Dodgson had signed a contract with Macmillan publishers, he published the first set on books on July 4th 1865, exactly three years after the boat trip. But Tenniel was dissatisfied with the printing quality of the pictures, so they were recalled.

The second “first edition” was printed in November – 150 years ago this month.