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Background & History of

Alice In Wonderland

There have been any number of illustrators for this delightfully nonsensical tale over the years. The appearance of the characters has also tended to change, according to each artists' style. Each set of illustrations was richly evocative of the tale, however, and each has contributed to our continued enjoyment of this story.

The work of several of the earliest illustrators has been chosen for inclusion here, along with two more contemporary artists. Sound a wee bit surreal? Perhaps. But then, so is the story itself.

To the best of our knowledge, this BEDTIME-STORY CLASSIC is the only rendering of Alice In Wonderland which successfully melds the nearly complete works of multiple artists with the tale itself. The result is a marvelously entertaining tapestry, embroidered with nonsensical whimsy and displayed at its illustrative best..

Teachers and Researchers: The information you'll find here was carefully researched.
If we have inadvertantly erred on identification of any illustration, please bring it to our attention.

About the Author: Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, third of eleven children of an Anglican priest, was a mathematician and a logician who was a lecturer at Oxford for some 26 years. He was also an accomplished photographer, and a Church Deacon. Dodgson's pen name, (and the name by which you will undoubtedly know him best), was Lewis Carroll. He is best known for his whimsical tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
In Carroll's original (1862-1864) manuscript for the story, Alice's Adventures Underground, which he personally illustrated, Alice was not the little blonde girl in a pinafore we have come to know from subsequent illustrations.

Instead, she was originally a winsome, dark haired child, whose likeness had been patterned after ten year old Alice Liddell, the child of a church colleague, for whom the Alice stories had been originally created.

Lewis Carroll - 1832-1898
Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson

Dodgson wrote four versions of "Alice".

Dodgson first told the story during a pleasant summer outing with friends. Reverend Dodgson, along with a Christ Church colleague, Robinson Duckworth, and the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church at Oxford, (Alice, Lorina, and Edith Liddell), in a rowing boat hired from Salter's boatyard, near Folly Bridgehad all set out on a lazy, 2 hour rowing trip down the river Isis to Godstow, that July 4th in 1862.

Dodgson entertained his fellow passengers with a story he created on the spur of the moment for 10 year old Alice. Alice and her sisters were enchanted with the tale, and Alice later pleaded with Carroll to commit the story to paper, which he did, but he did not complete it until until the following February.

In an article in the New York Times of April 4th 1928 Alice Liddell recalled that

"The beginning of Alice was told to me one summer afternoon when the sun was so hot we landed in the meadows down the river, deserting the boat to take refuge in the only bit of shade to be found, which was under a newly made hayrick. Here from all three of us, my sisters and myself, came the old petition, 'Tell us a story' and Mr. Dodgson began it.

Sometimes to tease us, Mr. Dodgson would stop and say suddenly, 'That's all till next time.' 'Oh,' we would cry, 'it's not bedtime already!' and he would go on. Another time the story would begin in the boat and Mr. Dodgson would pretend to fall asleep in the middle, to our great dismay."

Robinson Duckworth also described this trip:

"I rowed stroke and he rowed bow (the three little girls sat in the stern) ... and the story was actually composed over my shoulder for the benefit of Alice Liddell, who was acting as 'cox' of our gig ... I remember turning round and saying, 'Dodgson, is this an extempore romance of yours?' And he replied, 'Yes, I'm inventing it as we go along.' "

Charles Dodgson himself also recalled that day and others that followed:

"Many a day we rowed together on that quiet stream - the three little maidens and I - and many a fairy tale had been extemporised for their benefit- .. -yet none of these tales got written down: they lived and died, like summer midges, each in its own golden afternoon until there came a day when, as it chanced, one of the listeners petitioned that the tale might be written down for her."
Quotes Courtesy Christ Church

This first manuscript, which was called Alice's Adventures under Ground is thought to have probably been destroyed in 1864 when, on November 26th 1864, Dodgson presented Alice Liddell with a more elaborate hand-printed second version (shown at right) which included 37 of his own illustrations as a Christmas present.

The manuscript, entitled "Alice's Adventures Underground" was presented to Alice Liddell, inscribed as "A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child, in Memory of a Summer Day".

Reverend Dodgson later showed the tale to his family and his friend George Macdonald, who urged him to publish it. He subsequently revised and expanded the tale to almost twice its length and this third version was published by Macmillan and Co. in London, on July 4th, 1865. Sir John Tenniel was the artist who agreed to illustrate the revised and expanded text which was now called Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which was published in July was subsequently withdrawn. The illustrator was displeased at the poor quality of printing, which did not do justice to his illustrations. All but about 15 copies were successfully recalled and presumed destroyed. A new edition was published in November (but dated 1866).

Preferring anonymity for this whimsical work, since he had a professional reputation for producing more serious tomes, Dodgson chose to use the nom de plume or "pen name" of Lewis Carroll on his work.


Complete antique book is readable by clicking on cover above
It will be a graphics intensive page, so give it a moment to load.

Version four was a complete rewriting of the tale for very young children "from nought to five" which was brought out by Macmillan in 1889 with 20 of Tenniel's pictures enlarged and coloured.

In March 1885 Dodgson obtained the now married Alice Liddell Hargreaves' permission to allow Macmillan to publish a facsimile of the manuscript of Alice's Adventures under Ground; and this appeared on December 22nd 1886 in an edition of 5,000 copies.

1884 Edition - Courtesy USC Rare Book Collection
1893 - Y. Crowell & Co.

The story originally created to amuse young Alice enjoyed wide-spread popularity, even sparking a stage production and related toys. Carroll wrote a total of ten books, some for children, others on math and logic. In 1871 Carroll published Alice's further adventures in "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There". The tales "Hunting the Snark" and "Sylvie and Bruno" were amongst his later works.

In addition to laudatory fame, Carroll and his work also drew the predictible cadre of jealous attackers. Detractors began searching for hidden meanings in his writings, (sparking debates that still rage today), to the point that Carroll sought to distance himself from the books.

In an 1876 letter to readers Carroll implored them to read "Wonderland" in the "spirit in which I have written it."

Dodgson never had the opportunity to create stories for children of his own. Although he lectured in mathematics at Oxford, Dodgson was a profound stutterer, as were six of his seven sisters, and neither he nor his sisters ever married.

In the company of the children of his friends, however, Dodgson found emotional respite as well as an appreciative audience for his literary whimsey, and his stutter would lessen appreciably.

The man who was described by one of his illustrators as "an interesting but erratic genius," and by another as "impossible!" died in 1898 at the age of 66.

A detailed look at Dodgson is offered by the web site of Christ Church at Oxford.
Another biography may be found on the Brown University's web site.

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
by Sir H. von Herkomer
(posthumous portrait based on photographs)

You Are Old, Father William - parodies Robert Southey's "The Old Man's Complaints and How he Gained Them."
How Doth The Little Crocodile - parodies Isaac Watt's "Against Idleness and Mischief" (1715)
Speak Roughly To Your Little Boy - parodies David Bates' "Speak Gently."

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat - parodies Ann and Jane Taylor's "The Star" (1806).


Lewis Carroll's
1862/ 1864
The chief difficulty which Alice found at first was to manage her ostrich: she got its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck straightened out nicely, and was going to give a blow with its head, it would twist itself round, and look up into her face, with such a puzzled expression that she could not help bursting out laughing:

Sir John Tenniel's FLAMINGO - 1865

When Alice's Adventures Underground gave way to the revised, extended version, which had been renamed Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the artist chosen to illustrate it was Sir John Tenniel (b. Feb. 28, 1820, London, Eng.--d. Feb. 25, 1914, London). The first edition of that book was published in 1865.

There were a number of changes along the way.

For example; In the original croquet game sequence, "Alice's Adventures Underground" had Alice using an Ostrich for a mallet.

In subsequent versions however, the mallet of choice became the Flamingo, whose beak more closely resembled a mallet.

Sir John Tenniel

An English illustrator and satirical artist, Sir John Tenniel was especially known for political cartoons appearing in the British magazine, Punch. Today he is perhaps best remembered for his illustrations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872).

Tenniel's black and white illustrations (which to this day remain the most famous) were for the reproductive process known as wood-engraving.

In 1889 Macmillan published The Nursery Alice, a shortened and simplified version for very small children lacking the puns and irony in the original tale.

The book's cover described it as "Containing Twenty Coloured Enargements From Tenniel's Illustrations to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" With Text Adapted To Nursery Readers by Lewis Carroll" .

In 1907, when the British copyright on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland expired, and any publisher was free to create a new edition, several did, and to differentiate themselves from the original, many chose to produce new illustrated editions. A glance at the dates on many of these illustrations however, indicates that many publishers quite simply jumped the gun.

There have been any number of illustrators whose work has graced this popular tale over the years. The characters appearance tended to vary, according to each artists' style. In some cases, it's thought that more than one artist may have drawn Alice to resemble his own daughter. Regardless of artistic liberties taken, each set of illustrations was richly evocative of the tale, and each has contributed to our continued enjoyment of this story.

The works of several different illustrators have been selected for inclusion on the Alice In Wonderland story page. The varying styles offer a fascinating window into artistic creativity, allowing us to enjoy the historical as well as the contemporary illustrative renderings of this whimsical tale.

Of interest is the radical variation of certain scenes portrayed by each successve illustrator. Also of interest will be variations in Alice's clothing and hair. Details in some of the earlier illustrations are particularly extraordinary. Tea Party scenes, by both Rackham and Jackson, (Rackham to a greater degree of detail) show even the folds in the tablecloth, caused by it having been stored in a cupboard prior to the table being set.

Gutmann's rendering of the Frog footman is exquisite, and Rackham's Alice holding the pig-baby is remarkably poignant. The works of nine historical artists are currently displayed. The works of another two artists were chosen to represent more contemporary styles.

As additional resources for historical illustrations become available, more illustrations will be evaluated for addition to this tale. In addition to illustrations by the author and by Sir John Tennile, the following artists (listed adjacent to a representative sample of their work) have extensive works which appear on the story page. The listing is in chronological order.

Kirk, Maria L. New York: Stokes, 1904.
This time there could be no mistake about it; it was neither more nor less than a pig.
Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal

Arthur Rackham
Rackham, Arthur. London:
William Heinemann, 1907.

(L) It grunted again so violently that she looked down into its face in some alarm.

(R)The Mock Turtle drew a long breath and said: "That's very curious"
Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal

Gutmann, Bessie Pease. New York: Dodge, 1907.
It was opened by another footman.
The Rabbit actually took a watch out of its pocket.
Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal
Attwell, Mabel Lucie. London: Raphael Tuck & Sons, Ltd., 1910.
Alice in the pool of tears.

Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal
Jackson, A.E. New York: Henry Frowde, 1914; London: Frowde, 1915.
(L) "Please would you tell me," said Alice, a little timidly, "why your cat grins like that?"
(R) She was exactly the right height to rest her chin on Alice's shoulder.
Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal
Hudson, Gwynedd M. London: Hodder, 1922; New York: Dodd, 1922.
Alice and Dinah
Courtesy Collection of Dave Neal
Jessie Willcox Smith - Collage from Boys and Girls of Bookland. Smith, Nora Archibald, 1923
Courtesy of Athens Antique Labels & Prints :
  Other early Illustrators whose works are not yet pictured:
Newell, Peter. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1901.
Soper, George. London: Headley, 1911; New York: Baker, 1911.
Sowerby, Millicent. London:Chatto and Windus, 1907.
Tarrant, Margaret W. London: Ward, Lock and Co. Ltd., 1916.
Walker, W.H. London: John Lane, 1907. Woodward, Alice B. London: G. Bell, 1913.
Please tell us if you have additional resources.
CONTEMPORARY ARTWORK: Outside of the Disney characters, which have become so much a part of the childhood memory of the last several generations, the only other contemporary artist whose illustrations were chosen to be featured on this tale is Marshall Vandruff, who has himself produced all new artwork for Alice In Wonderland. Marshall's delightfully surreal, hookah-smoking Caterpillar was singularly ideal, and met the tone set by Carroll for the dialogue.
Marshall Vandruff's client list includes MAD Magazine, Hanna Barbera, Warner Brothers, and many others.

Down the Rabbit Hole.
This spectacular vertical image from Disney's movie, "Alice in Wonderland" is a framed, Limited Edition print, which measures 18" x 38". Appears Courtesy of American Royal Arts .

From Disney's Animated Version, all animation images are Copyright Disney.

Disney Video Version is available from the Disney web site.

Alice, the Cheshire cat, and the rest of Carroll's marvelous characters were popularized again in the 20th century by the masters of animation at the Disney studios. The 1951 Disney movie version of Alice In Wonderland (now available on video) borrowed elements from more than one of Carroll's tales, however.

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland is based on both Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and the subsequent book, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There.

Because Sir John Tenniel's illustrations for the Carroll books were so well known, Walt Disney acquired the rights to them as the basis for the visual style of Alice in Wonderland. When the illustrative style proved a hindrance to animation, the character designs were freely adopted for the animation form, though still making reference to the well-known Tenniel drawings. The visual development of the characters required an unusual amount of preliminary evolution. Months of rough sketches preceded the final definition on the model sheets which would guide the animators.

Disney's animated versions of Carrolls characters have been popular for several decades, but Carroll's original tale has continued to enchant and amuse us for well over one hundred thirty years.


Note from the Author, Lewis Carroll, appended to the Nursery edition published at Easter in the year 1890.

An Easter Greeting to Every Child Who Loves "Alice"

My, Dear Child,

Please to fancy, if you can, that you are reading a real letter, from a real friend whom you have seen, and whose voice you can seem to yourself to hear, wishing you, as I do now with all my heart, a happy Easter.

Do you know that delicious dreamy feeling, when one first wakes on a summer morning, with the twitter of birds in the air, and the fresh breeze coming in at the open window--when, lying lazily with eyes half shut, one sees as in a dream green boughs waving, or waters rippling in a golden light? It is a pleasure very near to sadness, bringing tears to one's eyes like a beautiful picture or poem. And is not that a Mother's gentle hand that undraws your curtains, and a Mother's sweet voice that summons you to rise? To rise and forget, in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark--to rise and enjoy another happy day, first kneeling to thank that unseen Friend who sends you the beautiful sun?

Are these strange words from a writer of such tales as "Alice"? And is this a strange letter to find in a book of nonsense? It may be so. Some perhaps may blame me for thus mixing together things grave and gay; others may smile and think it odd that any one should speak of solemn things at all, except in Church and on a Sunday: but I think--nay, I am sure--that some children will read this gently and lovingly, and in the spirit in which I have written it.

For I do not believe God means us thus to divide life into two halves--to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out-of-place to even so much as to mention Him on a week-day. Do you think He cares to see only kneeling figures and to hear only tones of prayer--and that He does not also love to see the lambs leaping in the sunlight, and to hear the merry voices of the children, as they roll among the hay? Surely their innocent laughter is as sweet in his ears as the grandest anthem that ever rolled up from the "dim religious light" of some solemn cathedral?

And if I have written anything to add to those stores of innocent and healthy amusement that are laid up in books for the children I love so well, it is surely something I may hope to look back upon without shame and sorrow (as how much of life must then be recalled!) when my turn comes to walk through the valley of shadows.

This Easter sun will rise on you, dear child, "feeling your life in every limb," and eager to rush out into the fresh morning air--and many an Easter-day will come and go, before it finds you feeble and grey-headed, creeping wearily out to bask once more in the sunlight--but it is good, even now, to think sometimes of that great morning when "the Sun of righteousness" shall "arise with healing in his wings."

Surely your gladness need not be the less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this--when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters--when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new a glorious day--and when all the sadness, and the sin, that darkened life on this little earth, shall be forgotten like the dreams of a night that is past!

Your affectionate Friend,

Lewis Carroll
Eastertide 1890

Courtesy Collection of Cathy Dean

We hope you and your family will enjoy this popular Bedtime-Story Classic.
With Special Thanks :
Background, Research, and Image Compilation
for the
Bedtime-Story Classic - Alice In Wonderland
Prepared By: The staff at Bedtime-Story.
(We had a really good time doing it.)

Alice In Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

The Making of Alice In Wonderland
Story & Illustration

Table of Contents:
Chapter I: Down the Rabbit-Hole
Chapter II: The Pool of Tears
Chapter III: A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale
Chapter IV: The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill
Chapter V: Advice from a Caterpillar
Chapter VI: Pig and Pepper
Chapter VII: A Mad Tea-Party
Chapter VIII: The Queen's Croquet-Ground
Chapter IX: The Mock Turtle's Story
Chapter X: The Lobster Quadrille
Chapter XI: Who Stole the Tarts?
Chapter XII: Alice's Evidence

Chapter I: Down the Rabbit-Hole

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