The story behind the 1865 Alice in Wonderland edition

The story behind the first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a fascinating one, filled with interesting details and quirks.

The book was written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematics don at Oxford University, who used the pen name Lewis Carroll. The story of Alice’s Adventures began during a boat ride on the Thames in 1862 with the three Liddell sisters, Lorina, Alice, and Edith, daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College in Oxford, where Dodgson taught. As the story goes, Alice asked Dodgson to tell her a story, and he began to improvise a tale about a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastic world filled with strange creatures and bizarre happenings. Alice was captivated by the story and asked Dodgson to write it down for her. Over the next few years, Dodgson worked on the manuscript, adding new characters and plot twists, and refining the language and imagery. He read portions of the story to friends and acquaintances, who encouraged him to publish it.

In 1863, Dodgson completed the manuscript, which he called “Alice’s Adventures Underground,” and commissioned the artist John Tenniel to create illustrations for it. He approached several publishers, but none were interested. It was only when a friend, Henry George Liddell, Alice’s father, intervened that Dodgson found a publisher for his book. Liddell suggested that Dodgson send the manuscript to Alexander Macmillan, a well-known publisher of children’s books. Macmillan was impressed by the manuscript and agreed to publish it. However, he asked Dodgson to make some changes to the story, including the removal of a poem called “The Jabberwocky” and the addition of new scenes and characters. Dodgson agreed to the changes, and the book was finally published in 1865 under the title “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” with illustrations by John Tenniel.

The first edition of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was a small print run of 2,000 copies, which were printed by Oxford University Press and bound by Macmillan. The book was an immediate success, and the entire print run sold out within weeks. However, many copies were given away as presentation copies to friends and family, or sold to libraries, which means that relatively few copies were available for sale to the general public. As a result, first editions of the book are highly sought after by collectors and can fetch incredibly high prices at auction. In fact, it’s estimated that only around 22 copies of the first edition still exist today, making it one of the most elusive and coveted books in the world of rare books.