This is a very special object, it shows us the early stages of one of the most famous children's stories in history.
You've probably heard of Alice in Wonderland, you may have read the book or seen a film adaptation and followed Alice on her adventures through the rabbit hole. Well this is the original manuscript, given to the real life Alice as an early Christmas present on 26th November 1864.
The story was created by Reverend Charles Dodson, a family friend of Alice Liddell and her sisters. He first told them the story on a trip down to the river in 1862, Alice liked the story so much that she asked him to write it down for her and it is then that Dodson's classic was born.
You can flick through the pages of this original manuscript over on the British Library's website.
You might be wondering why we are talking about Charles Dodson and not Lewis Carroll, the named author of the book. The name Lewis Carroll is actually a pseudonym, that is, its a pretend name adopted by Charles Dodson so's to hide his identity when publishing the book.
Things to think about
- Lots of authors use pseudonyms, can you think of any other examples?
- Why do you think an author might want to hide their true identity?
- Do you think the story can tell us much about the period it was written in?
You can learn more about the process of writing and making children's literature with this article on Show Me.
The text reads:
... are ferrets! Where can I have dropped them, I wonder?" Alice guessed in a moment that it was looking for the nosegay and the pair of white kid gloves, and she began hunting for them, but they were nowhere to be seen - everything seemed to have changed since her swim in the pool, and her walk along the river-bank with its fringe of rushes and forget-me-nots, and the glass table and the little door had vanished. Soon the rabbit noticed Alice, as she stood looking curiously about her, and at once said in a quick and angry tone, "why, Mary Ann! what are you doing out here? Go home this moment, and look on my dressing table for my gloves and my nosegay, and fetch them here, as quick as you can run, do you hear?" and Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once, without ...
- Reverend Charles Dodgson was a mathematics tutor at Christ Church, Oxford in 1856 when he first met Alice Liddell and her siblings, who were the children of the Dean of the college. Dodgson’s friendship with the children would lead him to create one of the most famous and enduring children’s stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story, which began life as ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, was first told to Alice and her sisters, Lorina and Edith, on a trip down the river on 4 July 1862. The children enjoyed the story so much that Alice asked Dodgson to write it down for her. Written in sepia-coloured ink and including 37 pen and ink illustrations (and a coloured title page) the manuscript was presented to Alice as an early Christmas present on 26 November 1864. Dodgson was not an artist and had some difficulties with the illustrations; he pasted a photograph of Alice (he was a keen photographer) over a drawing of her that he had included. The original drawing would not be seen again until it was uncovered in 1977. The photograph is now attached to a paper flap, enabling readers to see the illustration underneath. Under Ground to Wonderland? When Dodgson was encouraged by friends to publish his manuscript, he made some changes to the story, removing some of the family references included for the amusement of the Liddell children. Dodgson added two new chapters, ‘Pig and Pepper’ and ‘A Mad Tea-Party,’ and sought out an artist to create the illustrations. Some of John Tenniel’s illustrations such as Alice swimming in a ‘pool of tears’ were based on Dodgson’s own drawings, while others of new characters such as the Hatter and the March Hare were of Tenniel’s own creation. The story was published under the new title Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. What happened to the manuscript and how did it end up at the British Library? Alice Liddell kept the manuscript until 1928 when she was forced to sell it to pay death duties after the death of her husband. The manuscript was sold at auction at Sotheby’s for £15,000 to an American dealer, Dr Rosenbach, who in turn sold it to Eldridge Johnson upon returning to America. Following Johnson’s death in 1946 the manuscript was again sold at auction. This time, however, it was purchased by a wealthy group of benefactors who donated the volume to the British people (and the British Museum) in 1948 in gratitude for their gallantry against Hitler during World War Two.
- This is a very special object, it shows us the early stages of one of the most famous children's stories in history.