I recently visited the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus. As home to several major Alice collections, the Ransom Center mounted this exhibit to mark the 150th anniversary of the book’s publishing in 1865.
Lewis Carroll was the pen name used by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Born in 1832, he was a mathematician as well as an author and amateur photographer. The exhibit included his photographs of the book’s namesake, Alice Liddell, and other children. The exhibit only hinted at the ongoing controversy about his relationships with young female children.
Based on Carroll’s sketches, John Tenniel drew the illustrations for the original printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. However, he was unhappy with the print quality and insisted that another printer be used. A rare “suppressed” first edition called the “India Alice” was on display, as well as an “official” first edition.
Two groups of children were touring the exhibit while I was there. The Ransom Center’s staff were very good at keeping the young ones engaged with plenty of hands-on activities. Even I enjoyed the little scavenger hunt, stamping my card at various spots around the exhibition floor to earn a take-home activity booklet.
The exhibit included multiple versions of Alice in various languages, including some wonderful pop-up books. For me, the highlight was a stunning series of illustrations created by Salvador Dali. I’ve since read that these prints were originally sold through a Book of the Month Club offering in 1969 and can now be quite valuable.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can be viewed at the Ransom Center through July 6.
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